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Residents coached on preparing for Nevada-style natural disasters

Texas residents knew for days that Hurricane Harvey was coming. But for Nevadans, who call the third-most seismically active state in the country home, a mobile-phone warning would come just minutes before a major earthquake.

“And that’s only if we’re lucky enough to get a warning,” Clark County preparedness and recovery coordinator Misty Richardson said Friday, the first day of Emergency Preparedness month.

With all eyes on the emergency efforts in the aftermath of Harvey, Clark County and the Metropolitan Police Department on Friday hosted a seminar to help residents prepare for emergencies tailored to the state’s natural disasters — earthquakes and flash flooding.

“We don’t have a whole lot of time based on our natural hazards here,” Richardson said. “They’re sudden and quick, and people don’t recognize they have zero time to get ready for a major natural disaster as it’s unfolding.”

For Roberto Vaquera, his emergency preparedness plans have been on hold for six years. But on this sunny afternoon, at least, the 38-year-old local came prepared with a notebook and a couple of pens in hand. Two pens, he explained, in case the first one ran out of ink or stopped working.

“Has anyone ever heard of Las Vegas being called the ninth island?” Richardson asked, scanning the room. Vaquera sat up a little, picked up his pen and began scribbling. “It’s true,” the coordinator confirmed when no one responded.

Surrounded by open desert, any major services that could assist the valley in the event of a disaster are at least a four-hour drive away. “Think Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City,” Richardson went on.

On the next slide of the presentation, two words in big, bold letters caught the room’s attention: THREE DAYS. Vaquera flipped to the next page of his black leather-bound notebook.

“If something big were to happen and our community was completely cut off from help and supply flow, in three days we would not have any more food available,” Richardson said.

The county and Police Department recommend families set aside a three-day food supply at the very least. On average, according to Clark County, FEMA emergency services in Texas are taking upwards of seven days to access communities whose roadways have become inaccessible due to the drastic flooding.

The previous owner of Vaquera’s Las Vegas home built a storage area underneath the staircase to store canned foods and emergency tools.

“I thought I’d do the same thing when we moved in,” Vaquera said. “I started off with five gallons of water, and, well, that’s about as far as I got.”

In less than an hour, Vaquera filled at least three pages of his notebook. His quickly jotted-down notes serve as a reminder, he said, that his family is far from prepared.

“The reality is that disaster can happen to anyone,” Vaquera said, practically out the door. “I gotta start working before I lose interest again.”

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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