Quake ready: Utah’s need for earthquake preparedness

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April is Earthquake Awareness Month in Utah and experts remind us, though the Wasatch Fault seems calm, the threat of an earthquake remains.

Here in Utah, we are used to preparing for a day with multiple weather conditions. We bring our coat for when it snows, our sunglasses for when it shines, and an umbrella for when it rains.

But are you ready for an earthquake? Utah’s historic data shows it is not a matter of “if”, but “when.”

Geographer and BYU professor Matthew Bekker studies tree rings. He said they hold evidence used in determining seismic events.

“So, earthquakes affect people, they also affect trees,” Bekker explained. “The trees can tell us about that and give us an idea of how long it has been and then, give us a better idea of what the probability is of the next one,” he said.

A Utah-based group that studies earthquakes, called the Working Group of Utah Earthquake Probabilities, said the likelihood of an earthquake within the next 50 years is a 43% probability of a magnitude 6.75 or greater earthquake… and a 57% probability of at least 6.0. Utah Department of Emergency Management Public Information Officer Wade Matthews urges people to take earthquake preparedness seriously.

“We know that we are a bit overdue for a big earthquake along the Wasatch Fault,” Matthews said.

Utah ranks third on the list of states with the strongest shaking potential, according to a Forbes March 2024 report. Matthews said the state is taking steps to improve infrastructure and prepare for an earthquake.

”But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared at home,” Matthew said.

We asked several BYU students whether they knew what to do during an earthquake.

“Oh, man! I think initially I would try and get under something stable,” Jude Adams said.

“…either a table or door frame?” Dominique Rivera questioned.

“Try to go somewhere safe,” Ashley Clark answered.

“Probably the best thing to do is try to go outside,” Tanner Behling said.

“I am not from somewhere where they have a lot of earthquakes. I don’t really know too much about it. But if I were to move somewhere where there are a lot of earthquakes, it would be nice to know what to do,” Rivera said.

Matthews said the statewide earthquake drill held annually on the third Thursday in April is a great way to get prepared.

“We want people to know what to do during an earthquake: drop, cover and hold on,” Matthews said.

Something to also keep in mind: Coverage for earthquake damage is optional on most homeowners’ insurance policies. UtahBusiness.com reported in May 2022, despite the high risk, only 18% of homeowners sign up for the coverage.

The Great Shake-Out Utah was held on April 18 this year. You can find out more about the drill at www.shakeout.org/utah.

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