Posted by: Robin Finegan, Regional Administrator, Region 8
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!