An earthquake similar to one that recently hit San Francisco would cause up to 40 percent greater damage along the Wasatch Front - but experts said Friday they won't learn much about it by studying California.
Members of the Utah Geological and Mineral Survey said the state needs to commit more money to studying how its own ground moves.Genevieve Atwood, former survey director, said experts don't know for sure whether the Salt Lake Valley would amplify or muffle the shaking of an earthquake.
"We're just kind of hoping. We really don't know," she said.
Officials also are unsure how school buildings would fare in a quake. School districts must follow strict codes, but school buildings are inspected by district inspectors who do not have to meet minimum qualification or be licensed. About 460,000 students, teachers and administrators attend Utah school on a typical day, according to a report from the survey.
The Utah Advisory Council for Intergovernmental Relations approved eight recommendations Friday designed to better prepare Utahns for an earthquake. Among them is a recommendation for lawmakers to spend $2.7 million next year and $382,000 a year after that to find out where and how the ground would shake in a quake. Another recommendation calls for the state to enforce laws already in place to ensure school buildings are safe.
Some of the recommendations will be forwarded to the state Legislature. Others will be given to local governments. The council is composed of officials from both.
Meanwhile, Gov. Norm Bangerter met Friday with members of a state emergency preparedness team that recently returned from San Francisco. The group, led by state Earthquake Planner James L. Tingey, showed a 10-minute video of the trip and recommended the state enact tougher building codes.
A similar quake in Utah could cause damage along the Wasatch Front even if the epicenter was as far south as Nephi, Tingey said.
Tingey said new Utah schools are built to resist an earthquake with a magnitude of about 6 on the Richter scale. He suggested the state raise those standards to resist one that measures 7 or greater.
To learn how Utah's ground moves in a quake, the council recommended money for sophisticated instruments that measure motion in parts of the state's most populated areas.
"Until we begin to understand how Utah would respond in an earthquake it's very difficult to prepare," said Sen. Craig Peterson, R-Orem, a member of the council.
Peterson said Utah should not rely on information obtained from California. That information may not correspond to ground conditions in Utah. The council began studying Utah's earthquake preparedness needs long before the recent quake, but members said they were glad for the attention that now is being focused on their efforts.
The new equipment would tell Utah geologists how badly the ground will shake near and away from the epicenter and how earthquake will affect buildings, among other things. That part would cost $1.6 million. The rest of the money would be used to modernize the state's seismographic stations, set up a communications system to inform the public in emergencies and access satellites that can survey the ground from space.
Council members also approved six other recommendations given them by geologists, seismologists and emergency management officials.
They want the state to fund studies to see which government buildings pose the greatest dangers, to fund in-depth studies of land on which future government buildings are constructed, to require measuring devices to be included in new buildings and to require realtors to tell potential buyers about earthquake hazards. They also want local governments to include earthquake information in their plans for residential development and schools to teach children about earthquake preparedness.
Suggestions (and costs if available)
-Ensure school construction meets seismic codes
-Examine and bring government buildings up to safety codes. Cost estimate: $83 million.
-Require geologic surveys before government buildings constructed.
-Require cities to plan development with quake hazzards in mind.
-Require motion detectors and instruments in buildings.
-Require realtors to tell potential buyers about quake hazards. Cost: $200,000 for county to provide information.
-Buy sophisticated instruments to measure how Utah earth moves. Cost: $2.7 million.
-Educate children. Cost: $10,100.