Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if there is an Emergency

How Will I Know If There Is A Chemical Emergency?

If a chemical emergency could affect citizens within Douglas County, Sheriff’s dispatchers will activate the Emergency Mass Notification System  This is an automated telephone notification network that can ring the telephones of homes and businesses in the immediate danger area, giving pre-recorded instructions about what to do. The network can be activated countywide or within one or more geographic zones, calling thousands of telephones within minutes.

The database contains all listed and unlisted telephone numbers in Douglas County, as well as Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP) numbers issued by cable companies.  It also allows you to sign up and add cell phones, pagers, blackberries, e-mail addresses to your profile so that you can receive notifications on any of these devices.

Do Plants In Douglas County Have Their Own Alarm Systems?

Yes, most plants do, so they can warn their employees and contractors to evacuate the plant or seek safe shelter during a fire or chemical release. Each plant’s alarm sounds are purposely different, so employees at neighboring plants will know what type of incident is occurring where. Most plants test their alarm systems at least once a week. It is important to note that these alarms do not notify citizens in the surrounding community.

What Should I Do During A Chemical Emergency?

Industry officials are responsible for notifying Dispatch Centers about any chemical release that may affect the community. Douglas County officials are responsible for warning nearby homes, schools and businesses and recommending appropriate protective actions. Protective actions include either sheltering in place or evacuating. You are responsible for following those instructions to protect yourself and your family.

County officials may recommend that you “shelter in place” until the chemical release is stopped and winds have dissipated any vapors. Here’s how to Shelter In Place:

  1. GO INSIDE IMMEDIATELY
    Take yourself and anyone near you inside an enclosed structure, whether it’s a house, business, garage, or vehicle. If you know of an invalid or unattended child in your neighborhood, call them and tell them to remain indoors. Keep any pets inside also.Close all doors, windows, and other sources of outside air. Turn off air conditioning or heating systems, and close the fireplace damper to keep chemical vapors from entering. Ceiling fans or rotary fans inside the building can be safely used to keep cool. Gather a portable radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.Move into an interior room, preferably a room with no windows. From the inside of that room, cover any outside doors, windows, ceiling vents, and other sources of outside air with plastic sheeting and masking tape. Place a wet towel or sheet along the bottom of the door sill. If you smell any unusual odor or have trouble breathing, you should sit down, cover your nose and mouth with a damp washcloth, then take slow, shallow breaths and try to stay calm.
  2. TUNE RADIO TO AM 850
    The metro area broadcasts emergency information on radio station at 850 on the AM dial. During non-emergency periods, AM 850 airs community and school district news, and re-broadcasts reports from the National Weather Service. During a chemical release, AM 850 will continuously repeat instructions about how to Shelter In Place and provide more information as it’s available.Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages are also broadcast on NOAA Weather Radios and on regular and cable television.
  3. STAY OFF THE TELEPHONE
    County officials may try to telephone your home or business using the county’s computerized telephone notification system. Do not call police, fire, or 9-1-1 unless you are reporting a police, fire or medical emergency at your location. Overloaded telephone circuits may keep actual emergency calls from getting through.

Should I Try To Evacuate?

Evacuation may be an appropriate precaution during a flood or hurricane, but you should NOT attempt an evacuation during a chemical emergency unless specifically ordered by officials. Leaving your home or business may expose you to more chemical vapors, especially if you travel toward the leak or through the toxic cloud as it drifts downwind.

What If I Can’t Find Shelter?

Studies indicate that taking shelter is the best response to a chemical release. Even a poorly sealed building or vehicle provides some protection against chemical vapors. If you are inside a vehicle, close your vehicle’s doors and windows, and turn off the vehicle’s air conditioning and ventilation system. Turn on your car radio to AM 850 for more information.

If you can’t get inside, move in a crosswind direction, so the wind is blowing from left to right, or right to left, but NOT directly into your face or from behind you. You can see what direction the wind is blowing by observing nearby trees, flags, or clouds in the sky.

What If My Children Are In School?

The Douglas County School District has installed emergency notification radios (NOAA) in the School District Administration Building, all school buildings, and all county buildings. In addition, the schools have been equipped with School Safe radios, allowing school officials the ability to communicate directly with first responders. This radio system can be instantly activated by Sheriff’s Dispatchers, so the administrative staff and teachers at your children’s school will be notified in the event of a chemical release. They have been trained how to protect your children and will shelter in place until the emergency is over.

Please do NOT call the school and tie up telephone lines needed by school staff to communicate with district officials. If you go to the school, you are putting yourself and all the other children in danger if school officials open the doors to let you remove your children from their safe shelter. In fact, you and your children could be overcome by vapors while traveling to or from the school. Instead, listen to AM 850 for parent information from school officials.

How Will I Know When The Emergency Is Over?

Stay inside, sheltered in place, until you hear the “All Clear” message from county officials over the telephone notification system, or AM 850, or by police loudspeakers.

After the All Clear signal has been given, open all doors and windows, turn on your air conditioning or heating system, then go outside to let the building “air out” for 15-30 minutes before you re-enter.

Douglas County Sheriff

Justice Center

4000 Justice Way
Castle Rock, CO 80109
Phone: 303.660.7505

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Highlands Ranch Substation

9250 Zotos Drive
Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
Phone: 303.784.7800

Office Hours

Monday through Friday
7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.


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