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South Valley Journal

Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best: Riverton’s Emergency Preparedness Committee examines its resources

Apr 15, 2019 03:21PM ● By Mariden Williams

Riverton’s Emergency Preparedness Committee hopes to create an emergency operations center vaguely like the Utah EOC, pictured here, in Riverton’s public works building. (Joe Dougherty)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

Riverton’s Emergency Preparedness Committee delivered its first-ever presentation at a city council meeting on March 5. Last year, Riverton introduced a number of committees entirely comprising citizen volunteers, including an economic development committee and a transportation committee, but the Emergency Preparedness committee is perhaps the one receiving the most attention.

“In light of some of the earthquakes and other things that we’ve experienced, we felt it really timely for them to come in,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs.

Committee head chairman Nick Richey couldn’t agree more.

“Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes,” he said. “Most recently, we’ve had a swarm of earthquakes not too far from home, and that’s spurred up a lot of interest among community members as well as the emergency management team at state, county and local levels,”

Currently, the committee is operating on a $15,000 annual budget. 

“Personally, I don’t think that $15,000 is enough,” Richey said. “Only $500 is allocated toward rations, and communication is what’s sucking up most of those funds. A large component of that is going to be consumed by computers, TVs, instant radios and communication equipment, as well as rations and water for at least 96 hours. That takes up 75 percent of our budget.” The remaining 25 percent is currently budgeted toward community outreach and education efforts.

City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt is working with the committee to apply for a grant that could potentially double the committee’s funds, which would be a welcome boon. Staggs pointed out that, as the city is approaching the end of a fiscal year and most of the committee’s current money-suckers are one-time expenses, the committee will be receiving another $15,000 relatively soon but is still in favor of pursuing the grant and potentially increasing the budget further. 

Officials from the city’s public works department are working with the committee to transform the public works building into an emergency operations center. From the sound of it, they’ve still got a ways to go so far as seismic integrity.

“We want to make sure that all of our staff areas are earthquake proof,” Richey said. “When visiting the public works building, I noticed that there were a few key items that were not secured to the wall, one being the hazardous material shelving. Should an earthquake occur, a lot of that oil and petroleum would spill out on the floor.” He also remarked that it looked like a lot of important electrical components, including the backup generator, were not properly secured, which could compromise the whole building’s electricity access if they were to be knocked loose and damaged.

Beyond that, the committee is looking to improve its public outreach. Over the last few months of its operation, the committee has worked with city staff to completely overhaul its old website, which formerly consisted of just a few bullet points of information. 

The committee wants to establish emergency aid contacts with surrounding economic partners as well as other cities. The public works director and city engineer, Trace Robinson, suggested the possibility of reaching out to local construction agencies to identify their equipment, so that if debris needs to be removed after some crisis, officials will know where to look. Another idea is including educational handouts in residents’ utility bills.  

“Everyone in Riverton receives a bill of some sort, so if we can attach in there quick snippets about what to purchase to increase individual preparedness or future classes or training, that would be ideal,” said Richey.

There are a number of free online training courses—Incident Command System 100 and 908, most notably—that the committee suggests city officials take. It also hopes to provide Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, as well as CPR training sessions, to Riverton residents at some date in the future.