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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Canyon View Emergency Preparedness Night teaches safety to community

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Julie Slama

Ham radio operator Dick Abbot tells students and their families about communications during emergency situations. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

In the back of Canyon View Elementary, the Cottonwood Heights Amateur Radio Club was set up, relaying messages. Zoey, a Cottonwood Heights canine officer, was nearby and a fire truck was in front of the school.

There wasn’t an emergency, but the opportunity to learn how to be safe and prepared if one should arise.

“We recognize that the community should have the information and material to be prepared and safe,” said Principal Kirsten Draper, who had attended a recent emergency expo and afterward decided to organize one for her community. “It’s easy to start. The hard part is knowing the next steps.”

State of Utah’s Division of Emergency Management Community Outreach Specialist Maralin Hoff said the first step for many is to create an emergency kit that is focused on the family’s needs.

“Include in the kit what is needed for the adults, kids, pets — dentures, coloring books, snacks — and have it ready to go,” she said. “When there’s a knock on the door and it’s a fire, gas leak, chemical spill, just grab the kids and pets, the kits and go — and know where to go. We saw with Hurricane Harvey that many people just left and only had the clothes on their back or a purse. Being prepared will help when the time comes.”

If time allows, Hoff suggests having cooler bags on hand to fill with food and medication. She also said to have a flash drive of photos and important information, such as insurance, ready.

“With Hurricane Katrina, we saw that many people didn’t have any identification or information of proof of who they were, where they lived and what they owned,” she said.

Hoff also gave families helpful hints if an earthquake happens to turn their backs from windows and get into a closet or under a doorframe, or even under a grocery cart while shopping. 

“Don’t panic and run out, because that big picture window by the entrance could shatter and send flying glass,” she said.

Other safety measures can be simple, Hoff said, such as attaching a whistle to a purse or backpack and using it for “stranger danger” or if in need while hiking. She also suggested lining cupboards with rubber grip liner so items won’t shake and fall during an earthquake.

Parent Rayna Drago said that as a member of the school community council, she wanted to learn what better ways the school could be prepared. However, she also realized that she could get her family better prepared as well.

“We need to have kits in each classroom,” she said. “I know I need to update what I have for my family and dog.”

In the hallway, there was information about internet safety and first aid. Outside, there was a bike helmet safety check and the ham radio operators shared safety tips.

“We’re explaining how ham radios support Cottonwood Heights in emergency, especially when phone and cells are down,” operator Dick Abbot said. “We’re volunteers with FCC (Federal Communication Commission) licenses who work with the police to pass along the messages of where to allocate help and emergency responders.”

Abbot said he was an emergency communication officer with the army reserve, and that the city has become better prepared in the past 10 years.

“Emergency procedures are in place and there’s better communication of what needs to be done,” he said. “But we can always practice and learn more.”