Carrie Laudie | News Editor | @carrielaudie
On Saturday, March 7, UVU participated in a countywide mock disaster. The training exercise took place at West Campus and tested the ability of multiple agencies to work together in the event of a large disaster. Close to 400 people participated, with 120 volunteers from UVU, BYU and various other groups who acted as victims during the disaster. There were several other mock disaster scenarios running throughout the county.
The exercise was a simulation of a dirty bomb going off during a basketball game and victims were treated for injuries from the blast, along with exposure to chemicals. The group of volunteers was placed in the building as part of the exercise to make it more realistic for responders, along with theatrical smoke and blast fragments placed in the building to add to the realism.
“This was a multi-agency endeavor and gave UVU the chance to interact with responding agencies, this is always important as we build relationships and familiarity with agencies and organizations,” said Robin Ebmeyer, director of Emergency Risk Management at UVU.
During the mock disaster, UVU had the chance to test recently purchased communication equipment, a HAM radio and new satellite phones. There are a group of UVU employees who know how to communicate with other HAM radio operators, and have volunteered to do this in the event of an emergency. Having this equipment gives UVU the ability to communicate to city and county officials if regular communication methods are unavailable. The HAM radio equipment is placed on the seventh floor of the CS building, which will give the operators a clear view of the valley.
Some of the other methods tested by UVU for communicating with the public included text messaging, a push notification to the UVU app and information being posted to the uvu.info website, where emergency and disaster messages are displayed. The servers for uvu.info are far away from the main campus, in Richfield. Having the servers at an off-site location makes it possible for UVU to post emergency information in the event that a disaster happens on main campus and the regular uvu.edu servers are not available.
An exercise like this is important to test agencies and expose where weaknesses and breakdowns happen. Overall, the exercise was considered a success, but there were some mistakes that happened, including responders entering the building prematurely before all risks had been properly assessed.
The National Guard participated in the event by decontaminating victims who had been exposed to the chemical.
“We came, we saw, we won,” said Lieutenant Daniel Bartholomew of the National Guard.
The Utah County Health Department participated with the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) and assisted victims that were injured. In the event of a disaster like this there would not be enough ambulances to transport victims. UTA participated by providing busses to transport those who were injured or exposed to the chemical to area hospitals.
“It is always good to work with other agencies as we prepare as a whole to respond to the many types of emergencies or disasters that could come our way, not only as a university, but as a community,” said Ebmeyer. “We want our campus community to know we are out there in the community planning, training and exercising together, so that when the day comes that we face a large emergency or disaster we will be better prepared. Our responses will run smoother and we will have fewer delays in responding to our students, staff and faculty.”
If students want to receive text or push notifications when there is an emergency they can either download the UVU app or opt in to the text message emergency system. For more detailed instructions on how to opt in to the text messaging service visit http://www.uvu.edu/oit/campus/etxtmsg.html.
Carrie is the Editor in Chief for the 2015-2016 school year.