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Community Disaster Awareness

Updated on April 2, 2014
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Evaluation of Possible Disasters in the Area

Utah can experience a variety of disasters due to the varying climate and terrain. Severe weather is the most prevalent disaster annually. The hot, dry summer months can bring destructive and deadly wildfires, while the severe winter storms can cause a multitude of hazards. Heavy snow has been known to abandon motorists, interrupt emergency services, stop the flow of provisions, and shut down local schools. Heavy accumulations of snow can cause buildings to collapse, knock down trees and utility lines (County emergency plan, 2009). The consequential impact of utility outages can become dangerous, especially to the elderly and very young. The resulting costs of snow removal, damage repairs and loss of business can place a large economic burden on individuals, businesses and cities (Utah Department of Health, 2012). Many of the deaths resulting from this kind of disaster are heart attacks caused from shoveling snow and traffic accidents caused by icy roads (County emergency plan, 2009). Severe winter storms can be predicted by the weather service with limited reliability. Many times they are predicted with little time to prepare.


Floods are the most destructive natural disaster in terms of economic loss to the citizens of Utah. Historically, runoff from melting snow coupled with spring flash flooding has been the major cause of flooding problems in Davis County (County emergency plan, 2009). Floods can happen anywhere but the best way to predict flooding is to find information regarding flood hazard areas. Local residents can find flooding information through the State Division of Emergency Services & Homeland Security, State Office Building, Room 1110, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114, (801)538-3400.


Spring runoff and flash floods also have the potential to cause devastating mudslides. Davis County has significant landslide potential as the entire east side of the county is on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range (County emergency plan, 2009). Areas of high danger can be predicted by resent loss of ground cover by wildfires along with heavy snowpack and wet weather. Although high danger areas can be predicted, there no way to know when a landslide will occur and there are no warning systems in place to warn citizens in any of these areas. Detention basins have been constructed at the base of some of the drainages but most have limited capacities (County emergency plan, 2009). Due to the limited potential of warning, an event would result in a large number of homes being damaged or destroyed, loss of life and damaged public utility systems.

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Earthquakes

The natural disaster with the greatest potential for mass casualties in Utah is an earthquake and the resulting destruction, death and loss of services (Utah Seismic Safety Commission [USSC], 2008). Geologic evidence shows that movement on the faults in Utah can cause earthquakes of magnitudes of 6.5 to 7.5. The Wasatch Fault is a normal fault with the valley being pulled apart from east to west (Dougherty, 2012). A significant earthquake would result in a drop of the valley floor of up to 12 feet along the mountain bench in the areas closest to the epicenter (County emergency plan, 2009). The estimated prediction of a large earthquake occurring each year along the Wasatch fault is 1 in 450 to 1 in 1,600 and along one of the five central segments of the fault is 1 in 300 to 1 in 400 (USSC, 2008). Although no major quake has occurred in Davis County, it contains the highest density of earthquake faults in the state. If a major earthquake occurred in Davis County, wide-spread disaster would include a new shoreline of the Great Salt Lake east of its present location and numerous water, sewer and gas utility lines being severed (County emergency plan, 2009). Although it is predicted that Utah has the potential for a major earthquake, there is no way to predict exactly when this will occur.

Area Disaster Resources and Plans

Emergency management in Davis County is a coordinated effort between local, state and federal government working together with business, community based organizations, and volunteers to effectively meet the challenges caused by emergencies and disasters (County emergency plan, 2009). This coordinated effort, assists citizens and their communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all types of emergencies and disasters. In Davis County, Sgt. Brent Peters is the Director of Emergency Services and responsible to the overall disaster management in the community. Davis County resources are dispatched by four separate dispatch centers which are operational 24-hour per day 7-day a week Dispatches are responsible for after hours notification of the Emergency Services Division Emergency Management staff, responders and the media if a disaster occurs. The County Commissioners, Emergency Management Staff, Fire Authority, Fire Chief Officers or Sheriff Command Level Personnel may request notifications and warnings take place if conditions warrant. Dispatch centers are equipped to ensure continuous and unaffected operation with an emergency generator, computers and uninterrupted power supplies (County emergency plan, 2009).


Public awareness of the counties disaster plans is wide-spread. It is provided through community meetings and the distribution of the county disaster plans. There are many volunteers throughout the community, mainly church groups, that hold block meetings, make emergency shelter kits and go around to neighbors frequently educating them on the nearest designated shelters, who has volunteered to be the emergency disaster block captain, what will happen during a disaster and what they should do after. This is a highly effective and continuously developed disaster awareness plan.


There are many support measures that the county has taken to minimize or prevent injuries, death and destruction during a disaster. Utah, including Davis County, participates in the NOAA's National Weather Service StormReady program (County emergency plan, 2009). The program is aimed to help communities guard against the ravages of severe weather by preparing cities, counties and towns across the nation with the communication and safety tools necessary to save lives and property. StormReady communities are better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of severe weather through advanced planning, education and awareness (http://www.stormready.noaa.gov).


The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) helps notify the public of driving concerns including weather and traffic. UDOT has invested in an advanced system with more than 700 overhead traffic cameras and 1500 in-road traffic sensors to capture and distribute traffic information in an attempt to make driving in Utah more safe and efficient. The photos, videos and traffic data are available on the UDOT website or mobile applications. They are also used by local news, national organizations and other information sources to communicate Utah's traffic status to the public (http://www.udot.utah.gov).


State and local authorities are set up to assess the damage and prioritize resources immediately after a disaster but it could take days for help to arrive at a specific home (County emergency plan, 2009). Due to this, individuals could be on their own for the first 72 hours after a major disaster which makes it critical for individuals to take additional support measures to minimize injury, death and destruction. Two important measures to take are to make a 72 hour kit and develop a family disaster plan. The kit needs to have enough food and water, clothing and first-aid supplies to provide for your needs until help arrives. A family disaster plan should outline where to meet and who to contact to find family members if they are separated at school or work when the disaster strikes. Other measures to minimize injury, death and destruction include practicing disaster drills, obtaining disaster insurance, making sure you home is bolted to the foundation and the water heater and other large pieces of furniture are strapped securely to the house frame (County emergency plan, 2009).

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Local Hospital Disaster Plan

Review of a local area hospital found a comprehensive emergency plan including evacuation, supplies and provisions for patients. The procurement and delivery procedures for supplies and equipment required in an emergency is incorporated into the contingency plans. If additional or unanticipated emergency supplies are needed, the Logistics Chief, working with the Materials Supply and Nutrition Supply unit leaders and the Finance Chief, will work to procure additional supplies. Pharmaceutical supplies are met through working with the Davis County Health Department and Cardinal Pharmacy. The Hospital has established procedures for accessing a pharmaceutical cache of specific medications in response to disasters. To facilitate acquisition of pharmaceuticals needed by all hospitals during an emergency, steps and protocols have been established to activate the Strategic National Stockpile program through the Davis County Health Department.

In the event of a power outage, the hospital has emergency generators and stored power. Generators supply emergency power to patient care and other critical areas during a power outage. The hospital has established vendor agreements to supplement routine supply/equipment needs during an acute or prolonged disaster situation. The hospital has a comprehensive testing and maintenance plan of all generators and related equipment with documentation of all tests available in the engineering department. The hospital has two generators. These generators will allow the hospital to function for an extended time frame.

In the event the hospital must be evacuated, administration will notify each department of when to plan to be evacuated. Each department will be responsible for ensure that all appropriate records are remove and confidentiality is maintained. The hospital will evacuate to the site where agreements have been made to using the facility as a temporary emergency hospital. Any patients that could be moved to another facility will have been moved, any patients that could have been released for home care will have been released. Only those patients that have to be moved, because there is no other alternative, will be moved to the new site. Ambulances, school buses, taxis, and employees’ vehicles will be used. Each patient moved, will have a healthcare individual with them. Pharmacy will be responsible to gather and bring all necessary medication to function as an emergency hospital. Engineering will be responsible to ensure that refrigeration will be set at the new site for medication and laboratory products. All needed portable equipment will be moved by Engineering with the assistance of any available personnel. Trucks from a local rental company can be used to haul equipment. Engineering will be the last to evacuate from the hospital.

References

Davis County emergency operations plan. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.co.davis.ut.us/sheriff/divisions/emergency_services/emergency_management/documents/Emergency%20Operations%20Plan/Basic%20Plan.pdf

Dougherty, J. (2012). The great Utah shake out. Enterprise, 41(37), 21.

Utah Department of Health. (2012). Public health outcome measures report. Retrieved from http://ibis.health.utah.gov/phom/TableOfContents.html

Utah Seismic Safety Commission. (2008). Putting down roots in earthquake country - your handbook for earthquakes in Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Geological Survey.

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