Eccles Health Sciences Library and the Great Utah ShakeOut

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director, NN/LM MidContinental Region, shares her experiences during the Great Utah Shakeout drill, which lasted three days, from April 17th to 19th.  This is a great example of the value of incorporating drills into your emergency planning strategy.

On a cool, rainy, overcast morning among good natured grumbling about “why couldn’t we choose a different day to have an earthquake”  the Great Utah ShakeOut  shook the Eccles Health Sciences Library. The Great Utah ShakeOut  (http://www.shakeout.org/utah/) was an earthquake drill that tested the state’s emergency response systems and, for the responders, lasted three days, April 17-19, 2012. For those of us in the library it lasted 45 minutes, from the time the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit at 10:15 am till we returned from the evacuation area at 11 am. The whole university participated, even construction workers building the new pharmacy building. In the health sciences center, only hospital employees providing direct patient care were exempt.

The official communication via text announcing the start of the drill didn’t reach everyone. There were library employees who did receive the message and communicated with others to “duck, cover and hold on.” As I was “cowering” under my desk, I used my cell phone to alert my designated contact in the RML to initiate the RML’s emergency plan. I let her know that we had just had an earthquake, I wasn’t able to provide the status of the rest of the staff, and the library would soon be evacuating.  The contact notified  the rest of the MCR staff about the drill in Utah. RML staff went through the pretend process of putting Eccles Health Sciences DOCLINE on hold and adding details to our emergency template message to go out on communication channels.

Library staff merged into the parade of colorful umbrellas walking to the designated evaluation area. I located the individuals reporting to me, noting that everyone had made it out of the library safely. I tried calling my contact to give her an update, but she couldn’t hear me. I sent her an email and later learned her computer was down so she didn’t receive the message.  

Some things we learned in the library. We needed to reinstitute a staff reporting system. People didn’t know who to notify that they had made it out safely. We have a collection of emergency reference books on a book truck. The triage location was set up down the road and a book truck is not a viable way to get the resources to the health care providers. We need a container that is totally enclosed and on wheels. The emergency contacts for libraries and museum meeting location needed to more centralized and closer to the emergency command center. If transportation and communication was down, this would reduce the distances people would have to walk and the environmental dangers they would encounter in order to produce a status report on the libraries and museums.

The RML reviews its emergency plan annually. Despite this regular review we discovered that much had changed with our communication tools. We need to revise how we use them, incorporating the new communications we now employ.  We also need to verify that staff is receiving messages from the disaster site.

Utah is overdue for its next big earthquake that happens every 30 years. Drills like this will ensure that we’re better prepared.

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director

NN/LM MidContinental Region

University of Utah Eccles Health Sciences Library

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