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County to hold mass evacuation drill

Posted at 5:59 AM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 08:59:16-04

On Tuesday, the Pima County Office of Emergency Management will participate in a statewide training, "Arizona's Mass Care Exercise." The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will be fully staffed and operational for this training.

The scenario goes as follows:

  • A catastrophic earthquake happens in Southern California
  • 400,000 people who evacuated come to Arizona
  • 150,000 of them come to Pima County

"Exercise players will tackle a variety of issues including coordination of response; reunification procedures; resource requests and prioritization; information sharing; and notifications," according to Sandra Espinoza, with the County OEM.

In Pima County, there will be more than 40 agencies participating in the drill, including federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector/non-governmental organizations.

This isn't the first time they've done a drill like this, according to Director of Emergency Management Jeff Guthrie. 

"We can bring in and provide for about 150,000 people, 147,000 I think is what our number was 10 years ago," he said. "This time we should be in better shape. We have better infrastructure, more hotel rooms, and we understand our programs a little bit better."

If a mass evacuation situation were to happen, he says the county must be prepared for the worst, so they'll need to make sure they have a good handle on how they would utilize resources to take care of people who show up with very little.

"This would be similar to the gem show, but those people show up and they have hotel rooms, they can financially support themselves when they get here," Guthrie said. "We're anticipating the people that come in from California potentially could be here living paycheck to paycheck, so they have no money for food, services, gas, that kind of stuff. We'll test our community here to see how we might provide for them."

It's the county's duty to be ready for these kinds of situations, according to Guthrie. So in Tuesday's simulation, he wants to make sure they practice as if it's the real thing.

"We are an area that cares for our neighbors. As they come in, we'll need to provide for them," Guthrie said. "If we were to send people to California, we'd expect the same thing. New Mexico, any of the neighboring states, you expect them to take care of those who've evacuated a catastrophic incident such as an earthquake."