Operation Seismos brings National Guard to Iron County for earthquake drill

Ham radio operators and emergency coordinators work together to prepare for catastrophic future events, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 04, 2016 b| Photo courtesy of John Higley, St. George News

CEDAR CITY A heavy military presence will be felt in Cedar City this weekend as the Utah National Guard 213th Forward Support Company teams up with Iron County Emergency Management to conduct “Operation Seismos.”

Soldiers in fatigues will have boots on the ground starting Friday as they step in to evaluate and help improve Iron County’s emergency preparedness capabilities in the event of a large earthquake that could wreak havoc on the region.

The exercise began Wednesday morning with the simulation of a large earthquake that buckled Interstate 15 in two places, collapsed a fire station and set a couple of buildings on fire, Emergency Management Coordinator John Higley said.

“It was a significant event as far as an exercise goes,” he said, and lessons have already been learned.

“In this kind of weather we have found that we do have some issues,” Higley said. “The trailer that we set up in is extremely cold and we were not able to heat the trailer well enough to maintain it, so we’ve kind of abandoned that for now until we re-evaluate that and change some things.”

Wednesday was spent working with ham radio operators in the area to transmit emergency messages digitally to access resources for the community, Higley said.

Messages were sent back and forth between ham radio volunteers and the Emergency Coordination Center, and some of the work being done with the radio operators is groundbreaking, Higley said.

We are doing things not done elsewhere in the world as far as communications with our ham radio operators,” Higley said. “We are not just practicing voice communication but they are transmitting digital communications.”

Ham radio operators were filling out forms in their cars out in the field, he said, and then transmitting the forms back to the Emergency Coordination Center digitally via email.

This is the first time this has been attempted in an emergency simulation setting, Higley said, and is being done in preparation for a large-scale exercise in March.

The 213th Forward Support Company specializes in vehicle maintenance, water purification and personnel support.

Iron County Emergency Management invited the 213th to Cedar City to help evaluate military and civilian radio communications, Higley said, adding that it was also important to focus on integration with public safety agencies in the community.

Saturday, the public is invited to the Diamond Z Arena, 11 N. Cross Hollow Dr., to see a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The helicopter will be transporting emergency supplies between the Cedar City Regional Airport and the Diamond Z Arena from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, weather permitting.

The public will not be allowed to go beyond a certain area, Higley said, but anyone is welcome to come and take pictures from outside of the restricted area.

Questions may be forwarded to Iron County Emergency Management Coordinator John Higley at: jhigley@ironcounty.net.

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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