Earthquake preparedness: How ready is Utah for the ‘Big One’?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A magnitude 2.6 earthquake near Saratoga Springs Saturday night didn’t cause any injuries or damage but it may have been a wakeup call for Utahns to get ready for a bigger quake.

Seismic experts say it’s a 50/50 chance that the Wasatch Front will experience a major earthquake in the next 50 years.

Be Ready Utah predicts that in a 7.0 quake along the Wasatch Front, 10,000 buildings would collapse, 2300 people would die and 30,000 more would be injured. Joe Dougherty with the Utah Division of Emergency Management says that state agencies are prepared but many Utahns are not.

“Some people feel like ‘Oh if an earthquake is so damaging we’re all going to die or there’s nothing we can do so there’s no use in preparing’,” Dougherty told ABC4 News Monday. “That’s one of the greatest myths that’s out there. Almost everyone will survive a damaging earthquake along the Wasatch Front. It comes down to what quality of life do you want to have in the aftermath…In a Magnitude 7.0 earthquake, we would expect almost every single thing we depend on to be interrupted, so your transportation corridors will be interrupted, light and heavy rail will be interrupted, utilities will be interrupted.”

Imagine no water, power or cellphone service for days or even weeks. That’s why experts recommend everyone has food and water storage, an emergency kit of first aid supplies and a family plan of what to do and where to meet.

“They say there’s a 50-50 chance there’s going to be a major earthquake here in our lifetimes. How prepared are you?” ABC4’s Rick Aaron asked Ogden resident Austin Despain. 

“Uh not very,” Despain replied. “Yeah, not at all.”

“Every time it happens I think about it,” Herriman resident Christie Palmer said. “But then I think like a lot of people, ‘Oh you know we have time’ so I put it off.”

“We’re dealing with a terrible thing in our state and that’s called apathy,” Dougherty said. “People have heard this preparedness message for so long and nothing bad has happened yet and they feel like ‘Do I even need to do anything?’ and my answer to them is we clearly need to explain more about these threats so that people will take those steps. They’ll understand that they are empowered to do something now, so they can recover later.”

One way to get ready is to participate in the annual statewide earthquake drill called the Great Utah ShakeOut, scheduled for Thursday, April 18th. 

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