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HERRIMAN — The Saratoga Springs flooding has reminded people that disasters can strike without warning. Living in Utah, families need to be prepared for earthquakes, wildfires, floods, mud slides, and avalanches. September marks the ninth annual National Preparedness Month.
It's a good idea to have a 72 hour kit that is ready to go. But, that alone doesn't ensure complete emergency preparedness. As the people of Herriman learned in recent years, it helps to get organized.
Summer Miller and her family moved into a neighbor in Herriman five years ago.
"The last thing on my mind was wildfires," Miller said. "We moved in the middle of December, and I was worried about finding snow boots for my kids to play in the snow, not fires. It's definitely changed since then."
When the Machine Gun Fire roared over the ridge two years ago, one-fourth of Herriman's residents were told to clear out 1500 homes.
"We all had our cars packed at that point," Miller said. "It was pretty intense. I yelled to my kids 'everybody hurry, and get anything that's irreplaceable.' My son came running downstairs with a rock collection and a hair dryer, and said 'are these irreplaceable.?'"
For the Millers, the fire and emergency evacuation turned out to be quite a wake up call. For Summer, she says she learned two important lessons from the experience- to write down the plan and that what is valuable depends on the person.
"We all need to make sure that we're prepared and ready for whatever disaster hits us," said Ryan Longman, the manager of Be Ready Utah. Those disasters include earthquakes and severe weather for all of us, and wildfires and flooding for many in Utah.
"We had an incredible flood season in 2011," said Joe Dougherty from the Utah Homeland Security & Emergency Management. "2012 has been the summer of wildfires. So, if you live in an area that can be threatened by those things, that needs to be part of your plan."
It's not hard. It just requires asking those 'what if' questions. If this happens, what are we going to do?
–Ryan Longman, manager of Be Ready Utah
Families and individuals need to evaluate their situation and ask themselves two questions. Would you evacuate? Or would you wait for help? First responders do what they can, but they can't be everywhere at once, so individuals need to prepare for self-reliance in an emergency.
Keys to an emergency preparedness plan include safety for you, your family and pets. Also, figuring out communication methods with your loved ones, and finding evacuation routes and reunification locations.
"It's not hard," Longman said. "It just requires asking those 'what if' questions. If this happens, what are we going to do?"
Now, the Miller family has an emergency plan in place, and after three evacuations in three years, they are feeling much more prepared.
"You think that everything in your house is important to you, but when you're trying to get our of there, the only thing that matters is the health and safety of your family," Miller said.