Communications students at Brigham Young University (BYU) were assigned to test the public disclosure laws as practiced by Utah’s 29 county governments. They decided to use as their test, county emergency evacuation plans, critically important in the wake of terrorist attacks on the U.S. in the past 15 years, and especially critical after the disasters in evacuation failures during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
Many Utah counties contacted by the BYU students outright refused public access to any information about their plans, while a good number of them said the plan was being revised and not available because it had not been officially adopted.
[Joel] Campbell [assistant professor in the department of communications,] said there were a few counties that at least tried to balance the public’s interest with security concerns by providing some information.
“In today’s world of threats of violence and terrorism, a county official charged with law enforcement responsibilities, as some who were contacted, could and probably should be suspicious about releasing such information,” said Brent Gardner, executive director for the Utah Association of Counties.
One might think that emergency evacuation plans would be spread as far and wide as possible, so that citizens could have at their fingertips the information they need to save their lives.
Not in Utah. Read the rest of this entry »