Washington County emergency managers respond to mock 4.9 earthquake during ‘Great Utah ShakeOut’

ST. GEORGE — Washington County emergency managers were among the many Utahns who took part in the “Great Utah ShakeOut” earthquake drill on Thursday.

A few minutes after 10 a.m, Tiffany Martineau of Washington County Emergency Services read aloud a short statement saying that a 4.9 earthquake had been felt in the Washington County area.

Emergency managers participate in “Great Utah ShakeOut” earthquake drill, St. George, Utah, April 18, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Around that same time, schoolchildren of all ages and even college students practiced taking cover underneath their desks, also known as “drop, cover, hold.” Many private workplaces also conducted safety drills.

At the Washington County Emergency Operations Center on the fourth floor of the new county administration building in downtown St. George, officials sprang into action, coordinating anticipated emergency responses, handling communications and deploying resources.

Some officials made emergency supply orders from the state, requisitioning a wide variety of items, from bottled water to backhoes. The item descriptions were all marked with an “X” in front of them to indicate that they were only for a practice drill, explained Washington County Emergency Operations Manager Jason Bradley.

Meanwhile, in an adjoining room, a group of public information officers from various agencies worked on disseminating timely and accurate messages to the public. In the event of an actual emergency, real-time updates will be provided through the Washington County Emergency Management website, along with its Facebook Facebook

Cedar High School students take cover under their desks during “Great Utah ShakeOut” earthquake drill, Cedar City, Utah, April 18, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Geneva Richards, St. George News

And in the Emergency Operations Center’s adjoining radio room, several amateur radio operators who are part of Amateur Radio Emergency Service conducted roll-call checks and tested various broadcasting frequencies and systems.

“We just provide emergency communications at the direction of whatever agency needs our assistance,” amateur radio operator Jay Kay said.

Continuous preparation also is a key facet in the emergency management plan.

“Exercises like the one we participated in today allows us to prepare for all aspects of crisis incidents, so we are prepared as a team for actual events when it really matters,” Washington County Emergency Management Director Jason Whipple said in a statement posted on social media after the drill had concluded.

 “We drill frequently so that our team can function more efficiently when the health and safety of the members of our community are at stake. Drills keep our skills sharp, keep us familiar with the resources at our disposal, and how best to use them.”

Once the exercise was completed, Whipple added that the goals of the drill had been achieved.

“Today’s event was successful in preparing our team to manage future potential crisis incidents and continue to build that team cohesion that is so important for a smoothly operating team,” added Whipple.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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