Moffat Tunnel Exercise - May 14, 2011

Several counties within the North Central Region have been collaborating on an exercise series at the Moffat Tunnel, which is a 6.2 mile long tunnel that begins west of Rollinsville in Gilpin County and ends near Winter Park in Grand County. The initial meetings occurred last summer with Amtrak and Union Pacific regarding a full-scale mass casualty exercise at the tunnel. Since that time, the planning team has grown to include Boulder, Jefferson, Clear Creek, Gilpin and Grand Counties, as well as the Northwest IMT, Jefferson IMT, Boulder IMT, the Foothills RETAC and the Colorado Division of Emergency Management. Amtrak and Union Pacific have been excellent partners in this planning team as well, to ensure a better understanding of the dynamics of the tunnel and the unique safety considerations involved in tunnel operations. The planning team has conducted a series of trainings and two tabletop exercises to prepare for the full-scale exercise now scheduled for Saturday, May 14th.

Charlie Cox, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Amtrak, provided multiple response organizations a free 4-hour course on train safety and operations in August and September 2010. Following the trainings, we conducted the first tabletop exercise for all response organizations on both the Gilpin County and Grand County sides to allow them to work through various stages of the mass-casualty train derailment scenario. Amtrak, Union Pacific, Denver Water, EPA, and various other partners were on hand at this exercise to offer assistance and technical support as needed for command to make the key decisions that will be needed with a mass casualty incident involving a train derailment within the tunnel. Additionally, this tabletop exercise allowed us to move forward on communications planning and command procedures since the tunnel spans two counties with different communications systems.

Because of the complex nature of emergency medical care for an incident involving a train derailment, the participants of the initial tabletop requested a second tabletop specifically centered around the EMS activities of the incident. This tabletop occurred on March 21st in Georgetown. Paul Garvey, who has been acting as the planning team’s Communications Unit Leader, provided an overview of the communications plan developed for the full-scale, as well as recommendations for long-term communications in the tunnel area. Additionally, the Foothills RETAC was able to test their Mass-Casualty Plan, which was just finalized.
To prepare more fully for the full-scale exercise on May 14th, Amtrak and Union Pacific will have hands-on training available on both sides of the Moffat Tunnel in the weeks leading up to the full-scale exercise. The train will be available on the Grand County side at Tabernash, between Fraser and Granby, from May 5th through the 7th. Times for training are between 9am and 6pm each day. The train will then move to the wye at the East Portal of the Tunnel in Gilpin County, and be available for training from May 9th through May 13th, same times. The recommended time frame for the training is one hour to walk through the equipment, with more time available as needed for backboard operations or extrication.

Additionally, Charlie Cox will be offering more of the 4-hour trainings on train operations and safety between May 9th – 11th. If interested in attending either the classroom training or the hands-on training, please contact Charlie Cox by email at:

The exercise is just about one month away from the full-scale exercise. Therefore, responder numbers are going to be more crucial. If you or your agency is planning to participate in the exercise, please contact Lori Hodges as soon as possible to ensure adequate numbers. She can be reached at 303-656-5023 or by email at: