Spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Time to earthquake-proof your home

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – In the last two and a half weeks, residents across the Wasatch Front felt the impact of two earthquakes above a 5.7 magnitude. While it’s still fresh on our minds, emergency officials said with more people spending time at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, this is a great opportunity for Utahns to prepare and protect your family from an earthquake.

Washington Terrace resident Jody Macdonald and her husband, David did just that a few days ago after experiencing Magna’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake back on March 18th.

“I was working from home and when I looked over, I could see my TV going back and forth as it was sitting on the cabinet,” she said. “I ran over and stabilized it. But then I thought, ‘Gosh. We should probably secure this.’ I should know better because we’re always trying to be safe. We’ve got our Go Bag already and everything like that ready.”

Joe Dougherty, Public Information Officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management said approximately 2.8 million people felt the impact of the earthquake more than two weeks ago.

“For many of them, it was the very first one they felt. We were fortunate that no one got hurt. But I think it was a good wake-up call that yes, Utah IS earthquake country and the government has been telling us the truth all along,” he said.

He explained there’s never a good or bad time to prepare for an earthquake because seismologists can’t predict when the next one will hit. On Tuesday, another 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Central Idaho with people as far south as Salt Lake City reporting feeling the rumble.

“Our worst case scenario earthquake in Utah would be a magnitude 7.0 and in an earthquake like that, we would expect to see significant damage inside of people’s homes. The most likely way for people to get injured is by things falling on them,” said Dougherty.

Experts recommend performing a “home hazard hunt” by moving or securing objects that could fall on you and cause serious injury. Heavy items such as computer desks or top-heavy furniture may be a threat. Determine how they can be secured (i.e straps, studs, bolts) and if they can’t, be ready to move away from them during an earthquake.

“We were actually supposed to be on a cruise right now, so we have some vacation to use up. It’s just a good time to regroup,” said Macdonald. “We spent time looking around the house and making sure we secured anything that was loose.”

Dougherty said parents spending more at home with their children should go through drills with them and refresh emergency plans.

“This is something we do at home where we’ll walk around the house and say, ‘Okay. If an earthquake happens in this room, what is the best thing to do?’” he said. “My kids know if they’re downstairs in the kitchen to get under the table. Drop, take cover, and hold on. During the earthquake on March 18th, all of my kids stayed in their bed because they knew that’s what they were supposed to do.”

With the Great Utah ShakeOut taking place on April 16th, families can still sign up and participate from home.

“It will be a slightly different format from what we’ve seen in the past. We’ve typically seen hundreds of thousands of K-12 students and university students participating,” said Dougherty. “This year, we’re asking people to participate at home, wherever you are and that’s how the shakeout works every year. We never know when or where an earthquake is going to happen so we want to be prepared wherever we are.”

Remember to pack an emergency bag or kit that your family can quickly access and take during a disaster. Some items that should be included are a three-day supply of food and water, medication, important documents, tennis shoes, a change of clothes, a blanket, a flashlight, and a portable radio.

“My family has also figured out locations where we could meet up if an earthquake hit while we were at work,” said Macdonald.

For more information on how to prepare your family for an earthquake, click here.

For FAQs about earthquakes in Utah, visit this site.

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