Great Summit County ShakeOut
Ryan Summerlin April 9, 2013
Summit County is shaking things up by participating in a state-wide earthquake drill, which will be held on April 17 at 10:15 a.m.
"It’s a good opportunity for citizens to check to see how prepared they are," said Hugh Daniels, Park City Emergency Manager. "It’s one of the main reasons the ShakeOut was developed and has become so popular. It’s a great opportunity to do a big exercise for ourselves, but we really want the public to be able to take care of themselves, because in all honesty, we might not show up."
Daniels said that people are spoiled by being able to dial 911 and have a emergency responder, such as a police officer, fireman or EMT, arrive within five minutes.
"But in an event like this, that’s not going to happen," he said. "We’ll be overwhelmed. So we really need people to have water, first aid supplies and food, and to be able to take care of themselves and their neighbors as much as possible."
The drill won’t be obvious to citizens unless they are in a Park City building at 10:10 a.m., Daniels added.
"Some city buildings will be evacuated and they’ll stay evacuated until the building department can come inspect them," he said. "Some of our buildings that have larger citizen populations, such as the library or the MARC (the Park City recreation center in Park Meadows), we probably won’t do this year."
The city will conduct a city-wide exercise, which includes mobilizing the Emergency Operations Center, and every city department will have a role to play.
The city will also throw wrenches, called "injects," into the exercise for each department.
"We’ll call the departments and say, we understand that this has happened; how would you handle it? It’s not a full scale exercise where we send people out to actually do it, but we ask them to figure out how they would handle it," he said.
For example, if Main Street sustained a lot of damage, the city might want to secure the street.
"So we’d ask the Public Works Department to blockade all the streets from Heber to Swede Alley, as well as the side streets," he said. "We wouldn’t make them actually put barricades out, but they would discuss whether they have the barricades or the staff, how they would do it and what vehicles they’d use."
And then the city might ask the logistics staff to fence Main Street if it will be damaged for a prolonged period, he said.
"It would give them a chance to brainstorm who the supplier is, how do we get the stuff out there, how long will it take and what do we do in the interim for security? So we’ll throw those injects at all the departments," he said.
All city employees are being asked to drop, cover and hold on for one minute, and then meet with their department managers to discuss how they would handle a similar emergency.
Drop, cover and hold on entails dropping to the ground, taking cover under a desk or table and hold onto something sturdy and stay where you are until the shaking stops.
Other departments that are more active in emergencies, such as the Police Department, Public Works and City Hall, will be involved for several hours.
"They’ll send staff to man the Emergency Operations Center, and we’ll switch people out so other people have experience in there," he said.
In a large emergency, the city would likely manage the west side of Summit County, while the county manages the east side.
"Disasters don’t follow municipal boundaries, so we’re all in it together. We’ve put representatives in each others Emergency Operation Centers to coordinate, so if there was an issue in the Snyderville Basin, Park City would probably handle it," he said.
Unlike the city, the county is not planning to shut down any buildings, but instead limit the scenario to a "tabletop exercise," where scenarios are presented to a team of department heads and local utility representatives to facilitate group decision-making.
"The purpose is to see how the group is able to identify some viable responses. It’s basically a brainstorming session," said Kevin Callahan, Summit County Emergency Manager.
Staff from the county and the state will observe the process and provide evaluations following the exercise.
"So we’ll have two perspectives saying, here’s where you hit on the mark, and here’s where you seemed to stumble and maybe not respond quickly or understand the implications," Callahan said.
Last year was the first time the state tried to coordinate the Great Utah ShakeOut, and the computer systems crashed.
Summit County had relied on the state to coordinate requests from other public agencies.
"But they had so much going on, they were not able to even look at what was going on and manage it," he said. "We had anticipated there would be requests from different public agencies in the Salt Lake Valley saying, we need assistance in terms of debris removal or Search and Rescue, but because the system had crashed by 9 a.m., we weren’t getting those messages, so it was kind of a waste of time."
This year, the state is asking each jurisdiction to do their own testing program.
"So we’re trying to be more proactive in trying to figure out what the likely impact would be for us, and try to figure out where we would be able to deploy resources and who would be available," he said.
The county faces such challenges as having a deputy force that largely resides in the Salt Lake Valley, so the officers off-duty may not be able to respond to Summit County incidents if there are road closures, and those on-duty may be stranded in Summit County.
Summit County also has a large number of visitors, and as many as 30,000 vehicles that pass through a day, that may all be stranded.
"So even if we aren’t the center of it and don’t suffer major damage, we would have a lot of impacts from it," Callahan said. "Our first priority would be to take care of those immediate impacts close to us, and when we finally have control over that, then we’ll be able to assist other agencies."
Residents can participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut by registering at www.shakeout.org. Emergency preparedness guides are also available through the Summit County Health Department at 650 Round Valley Drive in Park City or online at http://www.summitcountyhealth.org.