Coming Soon: The Great Utah ShakeOut

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I’ve been following the progress of the upcoming Great Utah ShakeOut and I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen to date. Perhaps what’s most impressive is the number of participants, which continues to climb daily.

With less than one week to go, the Great Utah ShakeOut has already enlisted a record number of Utahns for what promises to be the largest such exercise in state history. The number of participants – 840,000 and counting – represents a full third of the state’s population. I wonder if any state has achieved such a high percentage of participation in their ShakeOut drill.

The level of participation may not come as a big surprise to Utahns, who have traditionally embraced a culture of preparedness and who pride themselves in being able to take care of themselves and their neighbors when disaster strikes. That’s really what we mean when we talk about a culture of preparedness—broad buy-in from the whole community, beginning at the individual level, to the point at which being prepared becomes a behavioral norm, like buckling your seat belt.

I really enjoyed one of the articles posted on the ShakeOut website and on a local newspaper. It was written by Joe Dougherty, who is a Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Emergency Management, and it uses coach speak to advise participants to “practice how you will play.” We know that nothing we do can begin to approximate what would happen if the Wasatch Fault earthquake should occur – especially when estimates predict a temblor in the 7.0 range. But we do know that people who have actually practiced drop, cover, and hold on drills, prepared a disaster kit and made a communications plan will come through the event in much better shape than the unprepared.

Disaster experts tell us that after any traumatic event, the initial stages of shock and denial is followed by the impulse to action—or inaction. Those who have already practiced in a simulation are far more likely to choose actions that will not only increase their chance of survival but also make them more resilient, so they can recover faster.

I like to remind folks that we need to quit practicing for the disaster that just happened, and instead take a harder look at how we’re going to deal with the really big ones that will happen sooner or later. That’s why I like ShakeOuts.

Way to go, Utah. Keep up the good work.

And if you haven’t already registered for the ShakeOut on April 17 at 10:15 a.m. MDT, visit the Great Utah ShakeOut website and sign up today!
Last Updated: 
06/16/2012 - 15:56


Robin, Thank you for your encouraging comments an...

Robin,<br /><br />Thank you for your encouraging comments and observations. It's been about three years since we first discussed in a Regional Advisory Council meeting the idea of a catastrophic Utah earthquake being our regional exercise. Since that time, I have been in awe of how so many talented people from your agency, our state, other Region VIII states, local agencies, volunteers and the private sector have come together to develop the Great Utah Shakeout. Our Utah resident’s level of engagement has been unprecedented. We now have well over 900,000 individuals and families signed up to participate on Tuesday. Our schools and business community have really stepped up to take advantage of this opportunity for advancing their preparedness, response and recovery efforts. All of this planning and exercise will greatly impact how well we will do as individuals, families, businesses, agencies, organizations and communities should such a real-world disaster occur. My compliments also to all of the dedicated professionals who have worked diligently in creating the Wasatch Range Catastrophic Earthquake Response Plan, which will guide how our partnered federal, state, local agencies, along with the private sector and volunteer organizations will respond and coordinate life saving and sustaining resources in the most efficient manner should this disaster occur. It is through these sincere and developed relationships that our citizens will be best served. I'd also like to recognize Mr. Jeff Gafkgen of FEMA Region VIII and Ms. Judy Watanabe of Utah Division of Emergency Management, who along with their Great Utah Shakeout Exercise Planning Team, have provided the leadership and extensive work required these past couple years to prepare all of us for this vital exercise. Thanks again to you and the entire FEMA team for being such great partners in public safety!

I have been CERT trained since 1998 and have tried...

I have been CERT trained since 1998 and have tried numerous times to get communities involved. Currently I am unable to get my company to participate even though they know they should. I am continuing me efforts and will eventually get them to see that necessity to prepare before it happens. I have reviewed the company BCP plan in concentrates on business recovery after such an event - problem is nobody is taking into consideration what people will be around to carry out the BCP. Only through training, planning, and education will we limit the number of casualties and although Utah has done a great job they need to do more at the company level to drive prepardness.

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