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The Great Utah ShakeOut and campus emergency response exercises

With the Great Utah ShakeOut coming up this week on April 18, many in the community are curious about the University of Utah’s approach to earthquake preparedness, especially since the U won’t be holding a traditional “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” exercise this year.

The goal of Campus Emergency Management is to ensure that every member of the campus community feels prepared and safe, no matter the situation.

Below, Stormy Sideria, associate director of Campus Emergency Management, sheds some light on the U’s approach to earthquake preparedness, what alternative activities are planned and what other campus emergency response exercises are in place for campus emergency preparedness.

Why was the decision made to forgo the traditional “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” exercise this year?

The decision was made a few years ago to not hold the traditional drill during ShakeOut week because of the impact on our academic operation. The ShakeOut often falls near the end of our semester, which happens to be a pretty important time for our students and faculty. However, this doesn’t mean we’re less committed to earthquake preparedness. On the contrary, we’ve planned alternative activities to ensure our community remains informed and resilient.

Can you describe some of these proactive alternative activities?

We are always accepting requests for training on emergency preparedness and other topics that can be accessed through our web page. We also have programs I highly recommend becoming familiar with such as the Big 3 Protective Actions, the 16+12 program and our campus alerts. You can also find us at emergency preparedness events on campus with community partners.

We also provide information for earthquake preparedness: “What do you do in an earthquake? Drop, cover, and hold on! Then, evacuate once the shaking stops.”

Each summer, we engage with campus partners to conduct a fire drill and evacuation exercise.

With the emphasis on personal preparedness, what activities can students, faculty and staff engage in to improve their readiness?

We’re encouraging our community to develop personal and family preparedness plans, assemble emergency supply kits and secure their living and working spaces. Digital preparedness, such as storing important documents online, is also vital. We’re partnering to promote training in Stop the Bleed, emergency response, first aid and CPR, as well as participation in community service projects focused on disaster preparedness.

How do the Summer Fire Drill and Evacuation Exercises fit into the university’s overall emergency preparedness plan?

The Summer Fire Drill and Evacuation Exercises are integral to our preparedness efforts. Conducted over two weeks in July, these no-notice drills fulfill state requirements for fire drills and provide essential training for safely evacuating and accounting for people in any hazard. They test our evacuation procedures, communication systems and the effectiveness of our emergency response teams. These drills are not only about fire safety but also about preparing for a range of emergencies, including earthquakes.

Please note that the summer exercise is only for the main academic campus. Employees of hospitals, clinics and health sciences should refer to Pulse for any exercise information for the ShakeOut next week and throughout the year.

These seem comprehensive. Why are these drills so important for the campus community?

The drills simulate real-world emergencies where advance warnings might not be possible. This helps our staff and emergency response teams to practice and improve their response immediately after an adverse event. Understanding evacuation routes, assembly points and the roles of emergency teams is crucial, not just for fires but for all emergencies. For instance, our Big 3 program is all about knowing how and where to evacuate, shelter-in-place and secure-in-place.

Program resources