Provo officials emphasize disaster preparation

Community Emergency Response Team participants are practicing lift techniques for preparation in emergency situations. (Erin Tapahe)

This story pairs with “Utah County course trains emergency volunteers”

Biology major Rachel Lindh walked the same path to and from school, but she distinctly remembers walking from school to her house one day and looking up to see a nearby mountain on fire. She walked through the door and her mother said, “You need to grab the most important things, then we need to go.”

Lindh went to her room and looked around, unsure of what to grab. “In that moment, I knew I had nothing, and I couldn’t do anything.”

Her entire family piled into their van and stayed the night in a hotel. The next morning, they dressed in the same clothes as the day before and were told the fire was under control. 

Lindh has faced two house evacuations from wildfires in her life. The first fire happened in Spokane, Washington, in 2009 and the second in Reno, Nevada, in 2012. Lindh said her fire evacuation experiences were difficult because she felt helpless. 

“This (fire) is something you can’t fight against, and there was nothing I could do to stop it,” Lindh said.

After the first fire, Lindh said her family learned they needed a plan for emergency situations. They prepared emergency packs with cash and enough food for a week. 

“We were worrying about our house being burned down,” Lindh said, “And because we were prepared, we didn’t have to worry about food or clothes.” 

According to Lindh, being prepared for emergency situations after the first fire brought her family peace when they experienced the second fire. She said it’s important for everyone to be prepared in case of an emergency or unforeseen event.

Preparation for natural disasters and other emergencies is also recommended by Provo City officials. Be Ready Utah is a Utah-run initiative to help Utahns learn about emergency planning. Officials encourage all residents to follow a four-step plan for preparation to emergency situations: make a plan, get a kit, be informed and get involved.

Here are four steps to help increase emergency preparedness: make a plan, get a kit, be informed and get involved. Information from: Be Ready. (Erin Tapahe)

Provo City Emergency Management Director Chris Blinzinger helps prepare for city-wide emergency situations and teaches courses to help the public be more prepared for natural disasters and other events.

“We don’t have a lot of big emergencies, so we are out of practice, and that’s one of the challenges of living here,” Blinzinger said. “We live in a great place where not a lot of bad things happen, but that’s also kind of hard because that means we don’t practice these things often enough.” 

Make a plan

“It’s not if, it’s when,” said Aislynn Tolman-Hill, a Utah County Health Department Public information officer regarding the need to be prepared. 

It’s important for Tolman-Hill to plan for emergency situations because she is a Utah County Health Department public information officer and a mother.

“I want to have as many precautions and systems possible in place to have my daughter well taken care of and prepared for,” Tolman-Hill said.

Get a kit

Lindh said her family had 15 minutes to evacuate their home in Reno. Having the emergency packs ready helped her family get out faster and they could help others with the evacuation. 

“It’s important to prepare an emergency pack because those situations are already really scary to begin,” Lindh said.

BYU Associate Director of Emergency Management Ryan Rasmussen emphasized the need for students to be prepared in an emailed statement provided through BYU Communications.

“We encourage all students to follow the counsel of our ecclesiastical leaders by having an updated 72-hour-kit, sufficient emergency funds that could allow the students to get home in the event that campus is closed due to an emergency and to have a reasonable amount of food on hand at home in case they aren’t able to purchase food from a store,” Rasmussen wrote.

Rasmussen recommends BYU students keep an extra set of car and apartment keys, back-up laptops and phones frequently and figure out how to communicate with family members in the event of an emergency when normal communication lines are down.

Practicing principles of self-reliance and being prepared for possible emergencies is something BYU encourages all their students to do, according to Rasmussen.

“BYU wards and stakes will also play a big role in caring for students during an emergency or disaster,” Rasmussen wrote.

To help individuals prepare for emergency situations, here is a list for a self-assemble emergency kit. Information from: Be Ready Utah (Erin Tapahe)

Be informed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website provides recommendations of what to do in an emergency situation.

“Being informed is understanding what resources you have,” Blinzinger said. “Know the hazards and vulnerabilities surrounding you.”

When constructing an emergency preparedness plan, consider the likelihood of the type of natural disaster to happen and determine a plan for each situation.

“We know we’re going to have an earthquake sometime, but if you prepare for an earthquake, you’ll also be prepared for a flood or fire,” Blinzinger said. “It is your kit, and it applies to many different things.”

Get involved

Students interested in a course that focuses on emergency preparedness and basic emergency response procedures can contact their local city governments and enquire about Community Emergency Response Training, or CERT, Rasmussen said. 

There are also courses provided on campus to help students learn “the basics of emergency preparedness,” Rasmussen said. “In addition to those, the Risk Management Department offers basic first aid and CPR courses which are taught on campus.” 

Additionally, the Emergency Alert System sends notifications about emergency procedures, dangerous situations, city events and other updates. The notification system sends alerts about where to go and how to help if an emergency were to happen. 

“With that notification registration we can tell you where to get food or where we need volunteers to help if you are able to,” Blinzinger said. 

Blinzinger encourages all residents to sign up for this system because it will identify necessary resources, how to help and where to go in emergency situations.

“We don’t have a crystal ball and can’t tell when the unexpected event happens. If we had a crystal ball, I would know by what date to be prepared and have my kit,” Blinzinger said. “The idea is to become self-sufficient so you aren’t the victim and that gives you the opportunity to help someone else out.

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