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River Heights meeting sparks concern about lack of water storage

September 30th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Catherine Meidell

RIVER HEIGHTS — Block captains and emergency specialists gathered Tuesday night for an annual meeting to discuss the current status of their emergency preparation plan. While reviewing organization and authority in the happenings of an emergency, the need for city water storage was brought to the table. A back-up water supply has been discussed for the last eight years but no action has been taken.

“I admit, I’ve let things fall to the wayside,” said Kathryn Hadfield, a River Heights city council member.

Hadfield is head of all emergency preparedness tasks and problems and said that she has put off planning the installation of water storage. Hadfield said she now realizes it needs to be a goal for the city to reach this level of preparedness. The addition to the city will end up costing $100,000, Hadfield said. However, in the event of a fire, this storage is necessary because the everyday water supply has the potential to run dry after using a large quantity on the flames, she said.

“We need to get this done. We need water to survive,” said Dick McLean, member of the city’s emergency board. He said he doesn’t understand why this has not been made a priority to the city council and not having the storage worries him.

It has been predicted that River Heights will experience an earthquake within the next few decades, which makes it pertinent that all families in the city have the means to survive if the disaster occurs, Hadfield said. The city is working directly with the LDS Church which assigns an emergency preparedness coordinator in every ward to ready all the famlies zoned for it.

The emergency board members want to inform every family of the steps that should occur in case of an emergency. Families will find out about these steps through their block captain. The block captain will arrange a “block party,” where their 10 assigned families will be acquainted with the captain and understand emergency procedures, Hadfield said. Each family will be given a red and green disaster flag to mount on their house when necessary and will reveiw possible solutions to disaster scenarios at the gathering. Disaster flags were previously made through the funding of the LDS Church, but McLean said the city should be responsible for funding the construction of more flags if they are needed, rather than using the church.

River Heights has adopted the National Incident Management System as well as the Incident Command System and is in the process of completing the Community Emergency Response Team. NIMS was established by the federal government to offer a preparedness template for the nation after the 9-11 attacks. The system allows different levels of government to collaborate and helps cities prevent and repair disaster. Some current members of River Heights’ emergency team have completed a 9-week course provided by the Federal Emergency Management System that aims to prepare members of the community to react appropriately in disaster situations.

“We’re taught to help as many people in as little time as possible,” Hadfield said.

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