Springville tried to throw an earthquake this week, but a party broke out.
It was the fourth annual disaster drill, and Springville residents were asked to listen for a siren, grab their 72-hour survival kits and meet in parks or schools around town. The kits were supposed to hold everything needed to feed and shelter family members for 72 hours.When the siren screamed at 7 p.m. Wednesday, 1,548 of Springville's 13,700 residents responded. Of the 387 families present, 264 had kits. And many families proceeded to have picnics.
"At the high school, people came and asked what the entertainment was going to be," said Roy Knittle, a member of the city's Emergency Preparedness Committee. "I offered to dance, but they weren't impressed. Some families were still there at 8 p.m., eating their kits. They said the dried chicken and rice was pretty good."
There were floor shows, of a sort, at other locations. Committee members demonstrated how to set up shelters, purify water and prepare food.
"Our main goals were to get people to make 72-hour kits or restock existing kits, and to set up a system of registering survivors," Police Chief Leland Bowers said. "In a real emergency, it helps to have a directory so family members can find each other quickly."
Bowers said some years Springville does a full community drill and others it has a smaller drill for the schools.
"For our last major community drill three years ago, we simulated a train wreck with toxic fumes," he said. "All the ambulance crews, police and firefighters were hypothetically killed, so the townspeople were on their own. We killed a lot of them off too. If they wandered into the wrong areas, they would see signs telling them they were dead."
Bowers said 4,000 attended that "disaster."
Fewer turned out this year, but most of them were enthusiastic. Mary Andreysen went so far as to design a new hat for the event.
"I bought a cap for 40 cents at a thrift shop, then started attaching survival supplies," she said. "I started with things like aspirin, tape, pins, a survival blanket and scissors. But then I thought, `If I survive, I want to live in style.' "
So Andreysen attached chocolate, a party noise-maker and breath mints. She covered her creation with plastic and tied it to her head with an Ace bandage.
"A few kids have laughed at me, but I will have the last laugh," she said.
Other area residents just came to exchange ideas. And a group of Springville High School students thought they had found a quiet, grassy place to study.
"We were here for a long time before the siren," said Angie McClain, 17. "We were just trying to get ready for a test tomorrow. We were studying World War II, then we heard the sirens. We wondered if it was an air raid."
"We were upset for a minute," said Tara Palfreyman, 17, "but then we thought at least we wouldn't have to take the test if we were dead."
But with all their training, Springville residents are improving their chances of surviving disasters.
"Springville is committed to preparing for emergencies," Bowers said. "The community has been very willing to participate to a high degree. All the major cities in Utah seem to share the Wasatch fault, but I don't know of any other city that has faced the problem with such determination and spirit."