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Valley Journals

Be prepared for when disaster strikes says WVC fire chief

May 09, 2018 05:11PM ● By Travis Barton

Emergency services would be out in full force in case of a natural disaster in Utah. (Pixabay)

By Travis Barton | travis@mycityjournals.com

John Evans was working as a firefighter for West Valley City in 1999 when the unexpected and destructive tornado tore through downtown Salt Lake City. They were immediately called to the scene.

“When you got down there it looked like a bomb went off,” Evans recalled. 

Evans is now the fire chief for West Valley City and serves as its emergency manager. He speaks from personal experience when he says residents need to be prepared in case of a natural disaster.

The month of April included the Great Utah ShakeOut, when people and organizations practice preparation for a major earthquake—the disaster experts have expected to cut through Utah for some time. 

Here are a few ways how Evans suggested residents prepare for a natural disaster.

·      Create 72- or 96-hour kits with items such as water, food, battery-powered radio, flashlight, whistle, garbage bags and local maps.

·      Have a way of communicating with family preferably using an out of state contact that everyone can reach if possible.

·      Ready your house by tying down your water heater, book shelves, televisions, etc.

·      Stop, drop and hold on.

·      More tips can be found at bereadyutah.gov. 

“All the predictions for an earthquake in this valley, are devastating,” Evans said. “Obviously as it goes on, shelters will be open, but for the first little while, people are just going to be on their own. 

“That's why you prepare yourself, there may not be help for a while.”

If you have a kit, go through it regularly updating any items that may have expired, Evans said.

Residents can also take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) eight-week training course. It provides basic training in medical, search and rescue, and fire.

“You train citizens to be in their neighborhoods helping their neighbors,” Evans said.

In addition to the CERT courses, the city also deploys safety information via WestFest, annual safety fairs and its website.

Pending the type of disaster to strike, City Hall would act as Emergency Operations Center (EOC) having just undergone a remodel. A large tractor-drawn trailer would serve as a mobile center for a backup.

Three levels of activation exist for the EOC depending on the situation, explained Evans. An earthquake would be “EOC activation level one.” It would require all city departments to fulfill positons in the EOC whether it be finance or parks and recreation.

While earthquakes are projected to cause heavy devastation, Evans said other events like flooding, wind and winter storms, chemical spills or power outages also necessitate emergency preparation.

This can also be an opportunity to review other household emergencies like fire alarms or escape plans. 

“Earthquake is going to be devastating, that's bottom line,” Evans said. “(But) you need to prepare yourself and family for things that can happen all the time. Everybody hits on the earthquake, that's the worst thing, but there's things we have happen yearly here.”