On the morning of Tuesday, April 17th 2012, at 10:15, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake will shake Utah. The quake will collapse 10,000 buildings, damage an additional 285,000, kill 2,300 people and injure 30,000 more. Approximately 350,000 people will be displaced from their homes. Damage is calculated to amount to $35 billion. This particular disaster is only a full-scale exercise, but the scenario is real.
“They asked me to come out here and scare you,” said Tony Wilde, public and private sector planner for Be Ready Utah with the Utah Department of Emergency Management. “Get off of your collective rear end and do something. We cannot be lackadaisical.”
Wilde, who spoke at the 2011 Disaster Symposium sponsored by Utah Disaster Kleenup, is helping to prepare the state for the Great Utah ShakeOut and also for a real earthquake – should one happen. In reality, disasters rarely strike Utah, said Bill Brass, programs manager for Utah Task Force 1, a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Team. Keith Bevan, program specialist for Utah Task Force 1, agrees that few large disasters occur in Utah with the exception of fires, which he says are a small part of the disaster system. As far as disasters go, Utah is ranked 50 out of 50 states, Bevan said, with the least amount of large disasters occurring in the Beehive State.
“Disasters never do happen in the state of Utah,” Brass said. “But when they do, you are going to want those practiced people from the DHS/FEMA National US&R Response System.”
Though relatively safe when compared to the other states, Utah is due for an earthquake, according to Wilde. Seismologists and geologists say the Wasatch Fault sees a major earthquake every 350 to 400 years – like clockwork, Wilde said. But unlike a tornado or a hurricane, residents cannot be forewarned about seismic activity, making it necessary for Utahns to prepare now, Wilde said.
“If we have a 7.0 earthquake or greater in the state of Utah, FEMA has determined that help will not arrive to the Salt Lake Area for at least 72 hours,” Brass said. “There is going to be massive destruction along the Wasatch Front.”
To help prepare Utah for this disaster, Be Ready Utah has invited all Utahns to participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut – a large-scale earthquake drill involving building owners, business owners, the government, schools and families. The main purpose of the ShakeOut is to instruct Utah residents on various safety measures they can implement before, during and after an earthquake.
“People who plan and prepare are the ones who will survive,” said Wilde. When an earthquake does hit, “you are going to have to take care of yourselves for a while.” Be Ready Utah is asking Utahns to act as if a major earthquake were occurring during the drill in order to accurately assess their actual preparedness for such an event.
“There will not be any freeway closures, power outages or other simulated effects of the hypothetical earthquake, unless your local government or utility company specifically notifies you about something of this nature,” according to ShakeOut.org. “The ShakeOut is not something you need to leave work to participate in – in fact, participating at work is encouraged.”
The ShakeOut will give building owners the opportunity to practice their emergency plans, said Wilde. Building and business owners should asses what they will need to keep their business running after a disaster, plan where they can relocate, if necessary, and prepare an evaluation plan post disaster.
In preparation for all disasters, building owners should make sure their buildings are protected under an insurance policy, said Brad Tibbits, director of Property and Casualty Insurance Division for the State of Utah.
“Insurance companies can help you design a program that will cover your assets and property,” Tibbits said. “Insurance will not solve all of the issues, but it will be a tool. It will help you get back in business.”
Building owners are encouraged to prepare and to participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut, Wilde said. Those who are interested can sign up at www.ShakeOut.org.