The Great Utah ShakeOut--"This is a Drill"

The Great Utah ShakeOut--"This is a Drill"
Posted on 04/11/2012

The Great Utah Shake Out is a functional drill to help individuals, families, businesses and the community prepare for an earthquake emergency situation. On April 17 to 19, more than 500,000 people along the Wasatch Front and virtually every governmental entity in Salt Lake County will participate in the event.

This exercise will touch schools, hospitals, religious groups, media, volunteer organizations like the Red Cross, Utah National Guard, and the Civil Air Patrol, and service districts such as water companies, Salt Lake County and the state.

The drill begins at 10:15 a.m., when the mock “earthquake” will strike, and Cottonwood Heights has two assessments planned. In the morning, all city departments will work on problem-solving based on scenarios such as a building collapse, blockage of a major thoroughfare, or a fire in a city residential area. Residents may find that some city services will be slower during the hours of 10-2 while various agencies exercise the Emergency Operations Plan.

In the evening, we will involve our volunteers, communications systems, and Georaphical Information Systems (GIS). We will practice with local CERT teams, drilling on communication and reporting up the chain of command to the city’s Emergency Operations Center.

Residents are asked to display their triage ribbons throughout the day, and those assigned as CERT block captains will be asked to report neighborhood statuses to their precinct captains using other means of communication besides cell phones or land lines.

Though the city has planned its own assessments, we will also be receiving surprise emergency scenarios from the county to see how quickly and efficiently the city responds.

Some areas of the city will receive “reverse 9-1-1” calls at approximately 7 p.m. on April 17. THIS IS A DRILL.  The phone number on the caller ID will show either all zeroes or the number 801-840-4141, and residents will hear the following message:

“This is the Valley Emergency Communications Center, your 9-1-1, with an important message. Please hit any key on your phone to hear the message.”

After the resident pushes any phone key, the message continues:

“This is a message from Cottonwood Heights City. We are testing our emergency notification system and advising you of the earthquake drill. This is a drill only. Do not call 9-1-1 if you receive this message unless it is an actual emergency. If you choose to participate in the earthquake drill, please display the appropriate triage ribbon for this exercise.  Again, this is an earthquake drill. Do not call 9-1-1. Thank you for your participation.”

Residents will then be given the option to either have the message repeated or end the phone call.

Here are some things you might encounter from April 17 to 19 as you travel through Salt Lake County:

  • A lot of traffic congestion due to evacuation drills at large institutions, simulated “shut downs” of major arteries, large vehicles such as fire trucks or public works trucks staging for this exercise, and many more first responders than usual on the road (police, fire, medical and public works).
  • You may see portable morgues or body refrigeration trucks.
  • You may encounter National Guard troops.
  • There may be simulated fires, floods, and/or building collapses.
  • Some areas may have people role-playing the part of victims.
  • There could be emergency shelters set up.
  • Emergency units such as water trailers and hazardous material teams may be dispatched.
  • Agencies such as utility companies will bring in more employees.
  • Phone lines could be tied up. Try texting instead. In fact, use this opportunity to practice with your out-of-state emergency contact.
  • You may see a slowdown in response from all the agencies who are engaged in the drill. Some areas will extend the drill through April 19.

We suggest that you take the following steps to prepare yourselves and your families for the Great Utah ShakeOut:

  1. Visit to register as participants, find ways to get ready for the drill, and see what local agencies are planning.
  2. Talk to your family, especially your children, about the drill and what they might see.
  3. Review the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” technique which children may experience in their schools.
  4. Practice your family communication plan: check in with your out of state contact and text one another instead of calling, just as you would in a real emergency.
  5. Verify the location and contents of your 72-hour kits.
  6. If you have a triage ribbon, tie it outside your home so that CERT block captains can practice their communication exercise (and so you can remember where you put your ribbons!). If you don’t have a triage ribbon, they will be available at the Cottonwood Heights Emergency Preparedness Fair on June 23.
  7. Watch the news – you will learn a lot from the combined efforts of Salt Lake Valley communities!

Save The Date:   Cottonwood Heights Emergency Fair:  June 23  Mill Hollow Park 10:00-2:00