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Recent earthquakes worry Utahns

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SALT LAKE CITY -- News of recent earthquakes in Haiti,Chile and Mexico has a lot of people anxious about earthquakes closer to home. In fact, Gov. Gary Herbert has declared this Earthquake Preparedness Week in Utah.

Earthquake Preparedness
We must prepare for earthquakes because:
  • Utah is a seismically active region
  • A majority of Utah's population is concentrated in the areas of greatest hazard
  • Many of Utah's older buildings and lifelines have low earthquake resistance

Last weekend's earthquake in Mexico shook some Utahns up emotionally. Maps, facts and figures of earthquake realities here at home have got people wondering what it will be like when it happens here.

There are several earthquake preparedness meetings going on across the state this week, but the information really isn't that new. Most Utahns are aware they live in earthquake country, and estimates about what would happen have been known for years.

If the region was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the ground would shake and split in spots. Roads and bridges would be destroyed, clogging traffic. There would be significant casualties, and hospitals would be overwhelmed. Older brick buildings would likely not do well.

Did you know?
  • About 700 earthquakes, including aftershocks, are located in Utah each year. Approximately 2% of them are felt.
  • About 500 earthquakes are located on the Wasatch Front each year.
  • An average of about 13 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or larger occur in Utah every year. About 60% of them occur along the Wasatch Front.
  • Since 1850, 16 damaging shocks of about magnitude 5.5 and larger have occurred in Utah.
  • Utah's largest earthquakes:
    • 1934- Hansel Valley, north of the Great Salt Lake, magnitude 6.6
    • 1901- near Richfield, magnitude 6.5.

Pictures of earthquake aftermath can create anxiety. From a preparedness standpoint, officials say that's a useful thing.

When was Utah's last earthquake?
Click here to find out

"Seventy-two percent of the people basically have some sort of 72-hour kit in place. But after that, we're running into that they're not reducing the risk in their homes," says Bob Carey, with the Utah Division of Homeland Security.

Studies show most earthquake injuries come from unsecured items falling on people in buildings, not from structural collapse. Utah officials are urging people to be aware of things that can fall, as well as having a 72-hour kit.

Part of being prepared, officials say, is knowing that you could likely be isolated after a major earthquake. The reason is that official 911 services are simply going to be overwhelmed during the disaster.


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Richard Piatt


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