University of Utah Participates in the Great ShakeOut

by Brent Flory

SALT LAKE CITY-At 10:10 AM on Tuesday, April 17, around 30 students were sitting in Mom’s Café on the first level of the Marriott Library preparing to drop, cover and hold in preparation for the statewide earthquake drill.  The workers of the café even closed up shop in order to join in the largest-ever building evacuation at the University of Utah.

The reason for the drill is in preparation for the next major earthquake predicted to shake the Wasatch front.  The Wasatch fault has a major earthquake every 350 to 400 years and the last one was 350 years ago.  Local government is urging Utahans now to get prepared.

The clock struck 10:15 and the students in the café dropped, covered and held on as instructed.  After a minute the students in the Library evacuated out of the west entrance library doors and walked over with umbrellas in hand to their designated Evacuation Assembly Point (EAP) in the lot west of Rice-Eccles Stadium.  The stadium was just one of nine EAPs on campus, where volunteers provided students with 72-hour survival kits and a card to enter a contest to win an iPad 2 for their participation.

The rain poured but that didn’t stop hundreds of students from gathering west of the stadium.  According to Fox 13 News, an estimated 40,000 university students and faculty participated in the drill.  Dallin Billings, a senior communications major, was happy to participate.

“We’ve all witnessed the amount of damage from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and recent tornado destruction in Texas… disaster could happen anytime and you want to be ready for it,” Billings said.

Along with the thousands of students and faculty who participated, many groups and organizations around campus volunteered their time to make the drill a success.  Cindy Harling, of the University Counseling Center and one of the staff members working the EAP in the stadium lot, feels the campus-wide drill was a great way to create awareness.

“We want students to understand of the situation… we live in an earthquake zone, you might want to be prepared.  The students seem to be really into it and are becoming more aware of what they can do to be ready for crisis,” said Harling.

University of Utah students weren’t the only ones in Utah preparing for the predicted earthquake.  According to the ShakeOut’s website, over 940,000 Utahans participated making it the largest emergency drill in the state of Utah.  Patrick Miller, a Utah student, happened to be at work during the ShakeOut.

“Sure enough, at 10:15, they had everyone in my office drop to the ground and cover themselves.  Something that I hadn’t done since elementary school”

 Miller said after the drill his work provided him with a “be ready” pamphlet, containing helpful readiness information linking to the website

Utahans are being encouraged by the state Government to have an emergency preparedness kit.  If disaster were to strike, many could be left without access to food or water for weeks.  It is vital to be prepared now.