Great Utah ShakeOut: Are you ready for this year’s earthquake drills?

Local News

Courtesy: Utah Geological Survey

Utah (ABC4) – Did you know Utah, on average, has at least 1,400 earthquakes and aftershocks each year? 

Mark Hale, Seismologist with the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, tells ABC4 only about 2% of those earthquakes are felt.

On April 15, 2021, Utahns will participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut, a day each year Utahns are encouraged to participate in drills to prepare us for possible earthquakes.

According to the Great Utah ShakeOut website, 90% of Utah’s population lives in active earthquake zones.

Utah has experienced damaging earthquakes in the past, and geologic evidence indicates that earthquakes larger than any experienced locally in historical time are likely in the future, according to the Great Utah ShakeOut. 

“Large earthquakes are possible anywhere in Utah, but they are most likely in a “seismic belt” about 100 miles wide extending north-south along the Wasatch Front and through Richfield to Cedar City and St. George,” as stated by the Great Utah ShakeOut. 

“About 60% of the earthquakes magnitude 3 or larger occur in the Wasatch Front region,” Hale adds. 

Many Utah residents discount the earthquake hazard based on the absence of moderate to large earthquakes, particularly along the Wasatch Front. Most people living in Utah today have not experienced a damaging earthquake in the state, the Great Utah ShakeOut shares. 

On March 18, 2020, Utah experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. The quake was Utah’s strongest since a 1992 earthquake in St. George. 

The 2020 earthquake’s epicenter was eight miles below Magna, and felt all along the Wasatch Front, into Colorado, Wyoming, and even Idaho.

“Utah straddles the boundary between the extending Basin and Range Province to the west and the relatively more stable Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau to the east. This boundary coincides with an area of earthquake activity called the Intermountain Seismic Belt,” says the Great Utah ShakeOut. 

Utah’s longest and most active fault, the Wasatch fault, lies within the Intermountain Seismic Belt. 

According to the Great Utah ShakeOut, the rapidly growing population along the Wasatch Front areas is putting most of Utah’s residents at risk.

What should you do if you find yourself experiencing an earthquake? 

The following information is from the Great Utah ShakeOut. 

Drop, Cover, and Hold On drill. To react quickly, you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in the situation of an earthquake before strong shaking knocks you down – or drops something on you. Practicing helps you be ready to respond.

  • If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, then Drop, Cover and Hold On:
    • DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!),
    • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
    • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. In most buildings in Utah, you are safer if you stay where you are until the shaking stops.
  • If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, you should find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If you are driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.

Officials say ground shaking during an earthquake is “seldom the cause of injury.”

“Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by collapsing walls and roofs, flying glass and falling objects. It is extremely important for a person to move as little as possible to reach the place of safety he or she has identified because most injuries occur when people try to move more than a short distance during the shaking,” as stated on the Great Utah ShakeOut website. 

Look around the areas and places you spend the most amount of time and identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall. If you are at your office or school, respond quickly. An immediate response to move to a safe place can save lives. That safe place should be within a few steps to avoid injury from flying debris.

How to participate in Great Utah ShakeOut.

Utahns can register to be a part of and participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut. If you have never registered for the Utah ShakeOut, you can learn more about registration. If you have participated in years past you can log into your account.

Anyone looking for resources and information can text “UTAHWUAKE” to 43362.

To learn more about earthquakes in Utah see the United States Safety Commission “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake County.”

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