SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has made it a priority to learn from the state’s COVID-19 response and to use that knowledge to fortify the state against future disasters.
In 2019, Utah health officials assessed that a pandemic flu was their highest concern for a disaster. On March 6, 2020, that worry became a reality when officials announced the first known case of COVID-19 in Utah.
Nearly two weeks later on March 18, Utah’s capital city shook from the massive 5.7 Magna earthquake, forcing the state’s emergency managers to respond to two concurrent disasters. Kris Hamlet, the director of the Utah Division of Emergency Management (DEM), said it was the first time in Utah history that the state Emergency Operations Center — Utah’s disaster management hub — had been put into a “Level 1 — Full Activation.”
The Salt Lake Tribune caught up with Hamlet to see what Utah’s emergency managers have learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response and what the state was doing to prepare for the next disaster, whether it be climate change-induced flash flooding or a major quake on the Wasatch Fault.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.