Experts: CA quake has no bearing on Utah seismic activity, but ‘big one’ is inevitable

Local (Utah/State News)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Would a 7.1 magnitude earthquake along the Wasatch fault bring down the State Capitol building? No, experts say, but that doesn’t mean other buildings along the fault are invulnerable.

Base isolators installed underneath the Capitol building around 2004 should absorb the shock of a major earthquake, according to Bob Carey, program manager for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. Similar base isolators will be installed underneath the Salt Lake temple as part of a major renovation at Temple Square.

“As a population we are probably much better prepared than most places,” Carey said, referring to a heightened consciousness in Utah around emergency preparedness.

Many older buildings along the Wasatch fault, known as unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs), are not ready for the inevitable “big one,” Carey said.

“They’re poorly reinforced, and they’re very susceptible to lateral motion that you get in earthquakes,” he said. Carey pointed to a government program available in conjunction with FEMA that allows owners of historic buildings and homes to apply for the “Fix the Bricks” grant, which helps reinforce masonry structures built before Utahns knew the full potential for a 7.1 magnitude quake.

Carey says California’s recent quakes have no effect on our seismic activity, but a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in or around Salt Lake City would likely cause massive power outages, billions of dollars in damage and heavy loss of life.

“People tend to focus on the big one,” said Jim Pechmann, seismologist at the University of Utah. “I guarantee you – a 6.0 underneath the Salt Lake valley would knock down buildings…vulnerable buildings.”

Experts remind families to perform regular drills, have a central point of contact, and have a 72-hour kit on hand.


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