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Park City holds first-ever emergency evacuation drill

Firefighters care for actors who pretended to be in a car crash.
Parker Malatesta
Firefighters care for actors who pretended to be in a car crash.

Dozens of Park City residents evacuated from the city Wednesday morning due to an earthquake - but the whole thing was just a trial run.

What would residents do if a major catastrophe hit Summit County? And how would local government help keep people safe and minimize danger and destruction?

Those questions occupy emergency services professionals and those who run cities and counties. And just as practice improves performance in many aspects of life, they’re hoping Wednesday’s emergency evacuation drill helped with preparing for future unknowns.

The practice evacuation was originally scheduled for last year, but that was delayed when the Parleys Canyon Fire forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in Pinebrook and Summit Park.

Wednesday’s exercise involved a made-up natural disaster: a large earthquake in the Salt Lake Valley that rattled structures, cut off water supply, and shut down interstates. Mike McComb, the city’s emergency manager, added more detail to the mock scenario.

“In conjunction with that, the earthquake caused a semi carrying flammable liquids to crash on I-80 near Summit Park, and the resulting explosion has caused a large wildfire in the Summit Park area,” McComb said.

Lower Deer Valley was designated the intermediate safety zone where everyone participating met.

Park City Police Department Public Information Officer Jay Randall said that in a real wildfire, that location would not be used. He said the department focuses on being able to set up incident command centers anywhere that works.

The goal then became to transport everyone to the designated evacuation site, which in this case was the Richardson Flat Park-and-Ride.

More mock trouble ensued. In a set involving actors and fake blood, six vehicles got in a crash on the way to the evacuation site on Bonanza Dr. Several people were injured, and one person required AirMed. Once again this is all fake.

After successfully getting to the evacuation site, the city held a mock press conference where officials briefed the media.

City councilmember Jeremy Rubell spoke at the podium.

“Really proud of the response, all the folks teaming together here, not only Park City Municipal but surrounding areas and jurisdictions," Rubell said.

"Just folks know out there we’re here for ya, come out to the evacuation sites and we’ll be able to take care of everyone. And most important thing is just staying safe right now.”

McComb said the importance of the exercise was being highlighted across the country, as Florida is dealing with evacuation orders given the oncoming impact of Hurricane Ian.

He said Wednesday’s event was a success.

“Overall, I think that stakeholders and participants were largely very positive in terms of seeing it in action," McComb said. "And overall I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

Visit bereadyparkcity.org to learn about how to prepare for emergencies and sign up for local alerts.