Earthquake preparedness expert comes to UVU

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McKhelyn Jones | Staff Writer

Chris Hawker, an earthquake preparedness expert, shared his firsthand account of survival, to UVU students and faculty on Aug. 12.

Hawker saved countless lives at the University of Canterbury, during the February 2011 earthquake that shook Christchurch, New Zealand, by using earthquake preparedness techniques he developed after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that occurred in September 2010.

Hawker is considered an authority on disaster preparedness because he has over 20 years’ experience in operations management, including the responsibility of developing and implementing emergency plans for the University of Canterbury.

He is also the co-author of research reports titled, “Shaken but Not Stirred” and “Resilience Tested”, which examine what was learned at the University of Canterbury during both earthquakes.

Hawker compiled several techniques pertinent to campus disaster survival from several universities around the world, including Virginia Tech and Louisiana State University. The techniques included developing relationships with response teams and holding exercises on campus that deal with active shooters and earthquakes.

These exercises gave Hawker and other university staff a firsthand look at what a disaster and response would look like.

“Anytime you get to hear somebody that’s lived through it, you get to learn,” said Robin Ebmeyer, director of emergency management and safety.

Ebmeyer attended the conference to learn how to improve UVU’s response and management during a disaster on campus. Several other UVU staff attended, including Dave McEntire, dean of aviation and public services and Jeff Maxfield, associate professor of emergency services.

Along with preparedness on campus, Hawker’s presentation also included several tips for individual preparedness, such as keeping family first, knowing where gas and water shutoff valves are located and suggested the audience ]plan for emergency-type events. Suggestions included keeping tennis shoes in the trunks of cars for those who like to wear high-heeled shoes and planning how to get home in the case of being stranded.

“I’m really glad I came because it provided a better outlook on how other places are implementing emergency service and preparedness. It makes me feel a lot safer because of all the faculty here taking notes and learning from other experiences,” said Chris Canseco, a UVU student.

According to Ebmeyer, Hawker’s presentation is a gold mine of information because it is a firsthand account of what a disaster looks like on a university campus. It helped her to recognize gaps in UVU’s emergency program while providing practical information on how to improve it.

She hopes to incorporate these learned lessons into UVU’s emergency program and to educate faculty
and staff on what they can do if a disaster were to strike campus.