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UEMA Online Newsletter
September 2010

Evacuations ­ Are you prepared and is your community prepared?

          With the recent Machine Gun fire in and around Herriman City, the number of press inquires around the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back has increased significantly. While we all send our support and best wishes to the Herriman community and those citizens who lost their homes, this has provided us with an opportunity to re-evaluate our own evacuation plans, as well as get the message out to our communities about personal preparedness, including how to plan for an evacuation.

          I expect I wasn´t the only Emergency Manager in the state who was sitting in front of the TV watching the news and taking notes. Many of our communities in the state have a wild land interface that is a potential hazard of great proportions. It is one of the hazards in my community that scares me the most. The next day it was time to go back to the plan and review our evacuation procedures and use the Machine Gun fire to reinforce and train key staff on a procedure we have fortunately never had to use in my 27 years in the community. You have to give a lot of credit to all the agencies involved in fire fighting, evacuation, security, sheltering , etc. in that no lives were lost, injuries were minor and they only lost three homes (though we wished that number was zero).

         So what are some of the things to think through for your community?

  • How far out do you set your secure perimeter
  • Who makes the Emergency Declaration and are the forms ready
  • Who makes the Evacuation Declaration
  • If the designated official is not available who is their successor and do they have the legal authority to make the necessary declarations
  • How do you get the word out and what means of communications are available to use
  • Where are your shelters and are they far enough away from the incident
  • What are the evacuation routes and where are the bottle necks
  • What about the animals
  • Do you have the necessary agreements in place for shelters, mutual aid, supplies and support
  • How do you handle the care and feeding of your responders, support staff and your evacuees
  • Where do you stage the press
  • Does your PIO have the necessary support to handle a large event that may require a JIS/JIC and the necessary media contacts

          These are just a few items in a list that can continue to grow as you review your plan and how your community would react to not only to a wildfire, but any other hazard that might require an evacuation.

          Then there are our citizens that need to be prepared in advance. For an evacuation it is more than just a 72-hour kit. It is hard to decide what is important to take at the last minute when you are in a hurry to leave. We need to help our citizens plan in advance what is important to load up in the car, to have important papers safe or on a disc or better yet at a relative´s house. What can not be replaced and yet small enough to load in the car? Were do family members meet? All things we train our citizens for now, but they tend to forget. With preparedness month coming to an end and the media interested in evacuations in light of recent emergencies, let´s use those tools to our advantage.

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