Salt Lake Valley leaders creating mass evacuation plans


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Leaders from around the Salt Lake Valley met Tuesday to start the process of creating a mass evacuation plan in case there's an earthquake, or any other kind of disaster that requires a lot of people to be moved quickly.

This meeting was planned long before the fire broke out above Herriman, but that fire was discussed as a motivating reason for why plans need to be in place.


"During an emergency there isn't a lot of time for thinking. There isn't a lot of time for going and looking things up in a book," said Mayor Ralph Becker. "If we haven't learned and we haven't exercised together, we are just not going to be prepared."

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell spoke at the meeting, saying officials need to pay extra attention to how people feel when an evacuation order comes. He says it's human nature for people to not want to leave and instead hunker down.

"I can't imagine a worse feeling than not being with your loved ones, not being near your property during an evacuation and not knowing what is going on," said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank talked about how every tall building and venue such as the EnergySolutions Arena presents unique challenges when it comes to getting people out of an area quickly.

"Whether it's a fire, whether it's a suspicious package ... it is going to impact somebody," Burbank said. "As we collectively prepare, then we are better able to deal with those small events. And when the large-scale event, if and when it happens, we will be much better prepared to deal with that."

"During an emergency there isn't a lot of time for thinking. There isn't a lot of time for going and looking things up in a book or giving a call to someone to figure out what to do," Becker said. "If we haven't learned and we haven't exercised together, we are just not going to be prepared."

Several people at the meeting talked about the need to have checklists in place that emergency responders can go through.

Tuesday's meeting will be followed by a series of workshops throughout the Salt Lake Valley and eventually expanding throughout the Wasatch Front.

A firm that specializes in emergency planning for large cities, Beck Disaster Recovery, has also been hired with the help of federal grant money and other sources to guide the planning process.

The evacuation plan for the Salt Lake area is being called the Salt Lake Valley Venue Evacuation Plan and it will be tested in a large-scale drill expected to be carried out in 2012.

FEMA Region 8 Administrator Robin Finegan attended the meeting and praised the cooperation that took place between Herriman city, the county and private groups to help the fire evacuation and aid efforts run as smoothly as they did during this most recent emergency.

Salt Lake Valley Emergency Services Coordinator Jeff Graviet says his agency is in the process of evaluating how it did in responding to the fire that was sparked at a machine gun range at Camp Williams. He says they could do a better job communicating and keeping contact lists current.

E-mail: rjeppesen@ksl.com

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Randall Jeppesen

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