Utah earthquake preparation and “The Big One”

Jul 8, 2019, 11:58 AM
Graphic compiled by Colby Walker | KSL Newsradio

SALT LAKE CITY — We are 100% likely to have a big earthquake in Utah. The only question is when, according to the Utah Emergency Management’s Earthquake Program Manager Bob Carey.

There have been a number of earthquakes this year in the state of Utah, many around the Bluffdale area. But all of those shakes and quakes aren’t blowing off the pressure and lessening the threat of The Big One.

 Jim Pechmann with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations told KSL Newsradio that the idea that a minor shaker reduces the risk is a myth.

“They don’t act as a safety valve.  In fact, they do increase the probability of larger earthquakes, a little bit,” Pechmann said.

One of the biggest issues that Utah has is the age of our buildings and the way that they were built. The issue, according to Bob Carey, is that many of the buildings in Utah are unreinforced masonry, which is “basically anything made of brick or block that was built prior to 1975.”

“We have a substantial amount of these structures, not only in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County but across the state… you’re looking at in the greater metropolitan area around 140,000 plus structures like this,” Carey said.

Carey also warns that it’s not just the Salt Lake Valley that should be worried. There are also pockets of old unreinforced buildings outside the Salt Lake Valley that can be found in towns like Provo and Ogden as well.

What to do if there is an earthquake

Drop. Cover. Hold On.

That’s the consensus from experts and specialists in emergency preparedness for what to do in case of an earthquake.

Most of the danger that comes during an earthquake isn’t getting swallowed up by a big split in the ground or having a building fall on top of you, experts say.

“A collapse is a rare event. Most [earthquake-related] casualties (injuries) come from the non-structural elements of a building like façades, lighting fixtures or signage,” Carey said.

Much of the old conventional wisdom with what to do during an earthquake like run outside or stand in a doorway, isn’t actually the safest thing to do.

Joe Dougherty, a spokesman with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, says that sometimes, your bed might be the safest place to be.

“If you’re in bed, stay in bed,” he said. “That’s one of the safest places for you. Cover yourself with your pillow, your blankets, just to make sure your head and neck are covered.”

After everything is done shaking, Dougherty said you should get up and reevaluate your situation: make sure that you’re OK and be aware of any heavy shelving or picture frames, any decorations that could fall and injure you.

You can find more information about what to do during an earthquake at The Great Utah Shakeout and

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Utah earthquake preparation and “The Big One”