During this past month, several city employees and I attended a special training session conducted by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Act) regarding earthquake response. It included all the cities in Weber County. It was a very good training since earthquakes are one of our major risks in this area. We recognize it is not if an earthquake will occur but when. We sit on a major fault zone and we have a good chance of having as much as a 6.5 earthquake. This would create significant damage to buildings, homes, and city infrastructure including water, sewer, communication, electricity, natural gas and roads.
The training focused on doing a rapid assessment to determine priority response, first being injuries and public health, mass care, and disaster housing. These services may have to continue for a number of days depending on the damage to homes and utility services. Personal and family preparedness will be very important during this time. It would typically take several hours for medical, public works, and other agencies to begin providing the necessary services to everyone. That is when it is important to have 72-hour kits with food, water, medicines and clothing to help sustain life and comfort until you can receive help.
Following the initial response and mass care of everyone, it will be necessary to begin the recovery process to restore utility services and assess each home as to whether it can be occupied safely. This could take weeks or months depending on the size of the area damaged and the extent of the damage within that area.
Since we don’t receive any advanced notice of earthquakes it is important that you do as much advanced preparation as possible ahead of time. Some items could be emergency kits, knowing how to shut off your power and gas, and figuring out earthquake insurance on your home since homeowner policies do not include earthquakes unless previously added. You also need to establish a rendezvous place with your families so you can get back together if it happened during the day.
At our special training session, we were given a mock earthquake exercise to give us some practice in handling one of these events. A lot of things went very well, but we also noted many areas where we could make improvements. The FEMA representative was extremely complimentary on how each city department and each city were able to work together harmoniously. He had never seen this type of cooperation with cities working together in other areas where he had conducted training. This is indicative of how cities, counties, and the state have worked together in the past with other major disasters.
This article was not written to induce fear, but to make you aware of the preparations needed ahead of time so we can meet any challenge that may come our way.
Brent Chugg, Mayor