Resilience during disaster
comes from preparedness
By Robert Stevens
The Sanpete County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) is asking Sanpete residents to consider how well they are prepared for an emergency in an effort to make individuals, families and the community as a whole more resilient.
Resilience, the ability to withstand and recover quickly from difficult conditions, is at the core of emergency preparedness, says Sgt. Jayson Albee, SCSO Emergency Manager. Being prepared for the event of an emergency is extremely important, and although the events of 2020 have made more people take it seriously, many people are far from prepared if something bad happened, such as a natural disaster.
“We don’t have control over so many things in our lives,” Albee says. “The weather, earthquakes, flooding, but we can plan and prepare and mitigate the best we can for when those things do happen, because we know they will happen.”
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, Albee says, and the official motto of “Disasters don’t wait, make your plan today” says it all in one sentence. Preparing for the worst can only benefit families, businesses and communities when that day comes.
“You get peace of mind knowing you can respond if something happens” Albee says. “In the world right now with all of the anxiety and stress we have, being prepared is so important. It’s such a better feeling to be confident; you’re more ready if something happens.”
Families have an excellent resource in the federal and Utah emergency preparedness websites, which are ready.gov and bereadyutah.gov, respectively. There, you can find exhaustive resources on topics such as how to make a plan, how to assemble an emergency kit, how to get informed on various potential disasters and even how to get involved in helping a community respond to disaster.
Albee says there are four core phases of emergency management: preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.
Preparedness is all about making your plan and gathering resources. Mitigation is about reducing the possible setbacks caused by a potential disaster. Response is the manner in how you actively address the disaster when it comes. Recovery is how to get back to normal, which always happens quicker and smoother when the first three are done properly, Albee says.
“Life is going to happen, tragedies, accidents, it’s a fact of life,” Albee says. “Resilient communities experience those things and recover faster.”
Overall, people in Sanpete are typically fairly well prepared compared to some communities, he says.
“I think we in Sanpete are above average,” he says. “Overall, we are pretty resourceful, independent and resilient.”
But that doesn’t mean we should be lax about being ready, or updating emergency plans which are already in place, especially considering how 2020 has played out so far.
“COVID-19 has been a challenge but it has made more people aware about being prepared,” Albee says. “Toilet paper, food supply chain, that’s an eye opener for some.”
Although not many people saw COVID-19 coming, Albee says the Central Utah community emergency response community did have a plan in place, and cooperation between the Central Utah Public Health Department (CUPHD), first-responders and hospitals resulted in an approach that has handled the situation well so far.
The approach to tackling the pandemic was just using the concepts of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery, the same methodology a family should use to be ready themselves.
“It was just putting into practice what we planned and trained for,” he says.
The CUPHD had been ready with a pandemic plan, and had been practicing components of it for years. The annual flu-shot shoot-out held by the CUPHD has given them training on how to approach a pandemic, including the distribution of personal protection equipment and COVID tests.
“They figured out how to do it in a very organized and efficient way, Albee says. “When it started, we looked at our mass fatality plan, and we asked ourselves how we could handle a worst case scenario.”
The SCSO and other emergency response efforts have dealt with many disasters over the years. Another more recent example was the Hilltop Fire, which raged on the northern tip of Sanpete County and caused many local residents to evacuate. Albee says the response to the fire was a cooperative effort by many agencies, using established emergency management plans to work together.
During his time at the SCSO, Albee has seen firsthand that people who do not consider the need to be prepared for an emergency can have a difficult time when it actually happens.
“I see it all the time,” Albee says. “People with no shoes, jacket or change of clothes. They didn’t check the weather; they didn’t have enough fuel, no way to charge their phones. The list goes on and on, and they always feel helpless because of it. They are more panicked and anxious.”
Getting more prepared for an emergency is something Albee recommends you involve the entire family in. An important component of any plan is how a family will reunify if they are split up, he says.
“Consider different scenarios,” he says. “If you’re lying in bed at night and a disaster happens, what does that look like?”
Albee says he often sees people who either have no emergency preparedness, or sometimes too much. It’s best to be ready for the worst, but not complicating things with way too much gear or kit. That being said, he admits his own family gives him good natured ribbing with how much he prepares for a family trip to the mountains.
“I would rather see someone over prepared than under,” he says, “But moderation is always a good idea.”