Officials already planning for the state’s next "Great Shake Out" earthquake drill say they’ve learned some key lessons to help ensure Utah is prepared.
State Sen. John Valentine, a level II coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency who helped organize the April drill, said communications between agencies and people in their mock earthquake locations must be improved.
Using one radio frequency for communications relieved some of those gaps. Another successful measure: implementing a command system that ranked certain agencies above others in an emergency, allowing a representative of one agency to take control and instruct others about how to proceed.
"You can never say that you’re fully prepared for a natural disaster, but I believe we’re as prepared as any state can be," Valentine said.
Teresa Zundel, director of communication for the American Red Cross Utah Region, said an army of 1200 Red Cross volunteers across the state were prepared and worked well with other relief organizations across the state in the drill. But more are needed.
"If any lesson was learned for us, it was the same we’ve known: We need to recruit and retain more volunteers," Zundel said.
More than 940,000 Utahns participated in the statewide drill. Next year’s drill is set for April 17.
"We were able to realize our weaknesses, and we’re already getting ready for the next one," said Roger Evans, chairman of the Utah Seismic Safety Commission. Kristine Pankow, assistant director of the University of Utah Seismograph Station, called the drill a great benefit to residents.
"The threat is very real so it’s crucial to be prepared," Pankow said.
Evans pointed out that many families participated in their homes and were able to better understand how they would respond in an emergency situation. Some participants learned simple life-saving lessons. Rather than taking refuge in doorways as was previously thought to be the best safety strategy, participants dropped, covered and held under desks and tables.
"This is going to be one of the ways that we save lives," Zundel said.
Andrew Carlino, director of operations of the Utah State Fairpark, said this year’s drill provided a very real example of an earthquake.
"A disaster doesn’t wait for sun," Carlino said of the rainy weather the day of the drill.
Clark Caras, executive director of the Utah State Fairpark, found the drill especially eye-opening because he had little idea of how to guide the more than 300,000 people who attend the fair through emergency procedures prior to the event. After the drill Caras still has some concerns but feels more confident.
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