Tooele County Emergency Management opened its doors to the community Monday evening to kick off National Preparedness Month.
Local first responders, Community Emergency Response Team program and the West Desert Amateur Radio Club were among the groups represented at the open house, which ran from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tours of the emergency operations center were made available to attendees.
Bucky Whitehouse, Tooele County Emergency Management director, said the tours help dispel some of the myths around the emergency operations center and what happens there. The center serves as a base of operations for emergency management, houses the county dispatch center, and has rooms for meetings, trainings and coordinating disaster response.
“The only way for them to really, truly understand the purpose of the building is to come to the open house,” Whitehouse said.
Recent disasters, including hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and wildfires throughout the western United States, have brought awareness of preparedness to the forefront, according to Whitehouse. While the response to large-scale disasters can take days, it can take years for effected regions to recover, he said.
TCEM is launching a new directive, Tooele Ready, to encourage residents and businesses to spend time preparing in advance of an emergency.
“In the case of personal preparedness, it used to be that we were advising people for 72 hours, you’ve got to be able to sustain yourself and your family all on your own,” Whitehouse said. “We’re actually expanding that time frame to anywhere from 96 to 120 (hours) and beyond.”
The disaster supply kits should include food for several days and one gallon of water for each person and pet in the household, according to Whitehouse. Residents should also have plans for communication and battery-operated electronics, such as flashlights, in preparation for power outages.
“One of the things we’re really encouraging people is to get to know your neighbors, take care of your neighbors … because you’re going to need each other when an emergency occurs,” Whitehouse said.
Another disaster preparedness program to be unveiled later this month is dubbed Tooele Responds. Whitehouse said the program will work as the county’s volunteer and donation management system.
Residents will be able to sign up through Tooele Responds to pledge to volunteer supplies or skills, Whitehouse said. The new system will allow quicker deployment of resources to the area of greatest need in case of a disaster.
Anyone interested in Tooele Responds can find more information on TCEM’s website, tcem.org, or by calling the office at 435-833-8100.