WEST BOUNTIFUL — As soon as word came of the earthquake (drill), Chief Todd Hixson set things rolling.
It was 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, April 17, and West Bountiful city leaders, along with 835,000 others in Utah, participated in the third annual ShakeOut, a way to test preparations for a real earthquake.
While some did the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” recommended to keep safe, Hixson was calling in police officers, sending staff out to check streets for water leaks and coordinating volunteers.
Vital decisions would have to be made, such as whether or not to shut off water to the city if a pipe had ruptured and water was shooting out.
“If it was a geyer, we’d need to prevent more flooding and save the water we have in our reservoirs,” said Steve Maughan, public works director.
At the same time, he said, city officials would need to ensure there was enough water coming in to put out fires, and that there was no negative pressure to draw water into the system and contaminate it.
And that was only one of many potential crises to manage in such an emergency, challenges the West Bountiful city staff worked through over the course of the morning.
A couple blocks away, volunteers in their green vests and hats signaling CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, were checking over maps and equipment in a trailer donated by Holly Oil.
Because I-15 runs along the east side of the city and help that may be needed from hospitals or resources could be east of the freeway, a jack that hoists 700,000 pounds and a generator that generates 100,000 watts make up some of the equipment on hand.
Volunteers with CERT training are a great boon to a city, said Duane Huffman, city adminstrator.
In any emergency, neighbors helping neighbors is the great resource cities have, said Huffman.
“But you have to balance that with the fact that without some form of organization, that kind of work can be dangerous to volunteers,” he said. “That’s why we have CERT, to help organize the volunteer work.”
Huffman hopes more residents will take advantage of the opportunity to receive CERT training.
Ron Crandall, CERT coordinator for West Bountiful said the six-week course is held one day each week and ends with a disaster simulation.
“Training is the key,” he said, and participants are taught to take care of their family needs first, then their neighbors, and then help in their neighborhoods.
CERT volunteers can also help with radio communication in times of emergencies.
Chief Hixson encouraged families to prepare for a possible earthquake by having a supply of water and food and a “go bag” or backpacks in case it’s necessary to leave home.
He also encouraged people to have a plan set up with their neighbors in case they have an emergency and are not able to communicate with family members, as cell phones and telephones are likely to be out of service.
If phones are working, Huffman said residents should call city offices to report damage but leave 911 emergency lines free for those reporting life and death emergencies.