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PREPARE FOR `BIG ONE,’ REPORT WARNS

SHARE PREPARE FOR `BIG ONE,’ REPORT WARNS

Utahns should prepare for a major earthquake because this is a seismically active region, with most of the state's population concentrated in the areas of greatest earthquake hazard, says a new draft state report.

Since settlement in 1847, Utah has been lucky that only moderate earthquakes have struck, adds the report, "Utah At Risk," prepared by members of the Utah Earthquake Advisory Board."Utah has a high catastrophic potential for future large earthquakes," says the draft.

The board is disbanding soon, but its members plan to pass along a final version of the document to its successor, the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, for possible action.

Some of the initiatives developed recommend that Utahns should:

- Develop an effective exercise and training program for hospitals, to assure their facilities are operational after an earthquake.

- Establish a communications network for information, in case of a catastrophic quake.

- Improve mitigation to reduce the impacts of an earthquake disaster. This would require identifying earthquake hazard areas throughout the state, including landslide and avalanche areas, fault rupture zones and places where the ground could liquify during a quake.

"There are at the present time homes and other buildings being constructed near to, or on, active faults in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties. Many land purchasers are not aware that they are buying land located in a potentially hazardous area," the report warns.

- Establish emergency response training.

- Improve mutual aid statewide. Agreements should be reached so that communities would help each other.

- Improve the hospital triage system. Presently hospitals don't have a single standard system of identifying injuries and deciding which to work on first, the draft says.

- Disclose geologic hazards in real-estate transactions.

- Get Utah schools to teach about earthquake science and safety.

- Start planning to mitigate damage to public utilities and pipelines.

- Develop guidelines to make state-owned buildings safer in terms of things that could fall in the event of an earthquake. These include cornices, lighting systems, air conditioners, plumbing and electrical equipment.

- Improve the general safety of state-owned buildings by reinforcing masonry walls. Also, potentially dangerous buildings could be posted with warnings "so those who use these buildings can make informed decisions about whether to enter."

- Improve the earthquake safety of water-delivery systems.

- Improve safety of homes, mobile homes, older school buildings, older hospital buildings and older high-occupancy buildings.

- Establish standards for evaluating seismic hazards, and for retrofitting buildings.

- Reduce risk to highway structures.

- Expand the program to measure strong motions from earthquakes.

Bob Carey, a quake expert in the division, said "Utah At Risk" is intended to be patterned after similar documents summarizing seismic safety needs in the states of Washington and California. It is to be used by the Legislature and local policymakers, he said.