Coordinating UCHealth emergency response through three active disasters
In her first year as emergency preparedness and life safety coordinator with UCHealth Emergency Medical Services, Shannon Wicker took on Colorado’s largest wildfire on record, a second major wildfire that threatened Estes Park, and the COVID-19 pandemic – at the same time.
Wicker led the planning and deployment of EMS teams and ambulances, coordinating not only the safety and welfare of wildland firefighters working on the Cameron Peak Fire, but also UCHealth EMS evacuation of an Estes Park hospital as the East Troublesome Fire approached.
Meanwhile, she went out of her way to support colleagues.
“While managing the demands of three active disasters and the impact it has on her own personal life, Shannon committed time to making care baskets for her team and other first responders,” said Andrew Kamei, former UCHealth Northern Colorado Region emergency manager who now is director of operations for UCHealth Medical Group Surgical Services.
“She always takes the time to connect in meaningful ways, both big and small, to show appreciation and compassion for our communities.”
Wicker said she coordinated with a local group on the gift baskets, which contained items such as coffee, gum, lip balm and more, to make sure everyone on the team was recognized for their work.
“People here left their families for two to three weeks at a time – literally camped out and lived at the fire,” she said.
Wicker started with UCHealth EMS in July 2017 as a part-time dispatcher. Among her emergency-services experiences are working as a 911 dispatcher for Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, as a police officer in North Dakota and earning a degree in emergency management and homeland security.
She became UCHealth EMS emergency preparedness and life safety coordinator in August 2019 after supporting development of emergency operations plans. She was developing those plans in January 2020 as COVID-19 arrived and went on to spend most of that year coordinating emergency response with local agencies.
Sometimes she was coordinating medical support to wildfires – which also included Lewstone and Mishawaka fires during the summer. Other times, she helped make phone calls to residents and coordinate evacuations. When COVID-19 surged and incident command activated, she served as a liaison to local agencies.
EMS Division Chief Monique Rose said Wicker embraced her role with enthusiasm and rose to the occasion.
“She goes above and beyond in the service of others each and every day,” Rose said. “Shannon’s abilities and contributions were vital to our success throughout the past year, and I am so honored to have her on our team.”
In December, Wicker was promoted to emergency preparedness manager. She said this work is “in my blood.” Her father served as a police officer at the same North Dakota agency where she worked, her uncle was police chief in Bismarck, two aunts were police officers and both her parents served in the military.
“I think it’s just always been my instinct to protect people,” she said. “It’s just kind of in my core. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”