Earthquakes and Other Disasters

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All around the world, there are many different disasters that cause various degrees of damage. Some disasters can be natural events meaning that they happen despite human control or prevention such as earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes, floods, and severe thunder storms or wind storms such as tornados. Others are considered man-made disasters such as purposeful bomb threats, attacks, shootings, oil spills, and explosions of various types.

Utah is known to have beautiful mountains and other popular recreational activities. The close distant mountains allow residents and visitors to ski or snow shoe during the winter time and hike or camp during the spring and fall. Lakes and reservoirs make for great swimming and canoeing to cool off during the warm summer days. Even though the mountains and lakes can be fun, they can put the people of Utah in danger for floods, earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, and avalanches.

Earthquakes will be the main focus of this paper, and the Utah Geological Survey states that Utah has had 17 earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 5.5 since 1847, the most recent quake happened in March of 2020 with a magnitude of 5.7. The largest leading earthquake happened in 1934 and had a magnitude of 6.6. Emotionally, the shake alone of an earthquake can be damaging enough, however buildings, structures and even travel can also be affected.

According to the USGS, an earthquake occurs when blocks of earth, also known as tectonic plates, slip together and causes the earth to shake. An earthquake occurs at a fault plane where the plates slip. A hypocenter is the location below the earth where the earthquake starts. The epicenter is above the surface of the earthquake and is considered the location of the earthquake. The aftershocks that are felt after an initial earthquake, are typically smaller than the initial shake, and can happen for days or weeks. Depending on the severity of the quake, buildings may be damaged, the pictures or ceiling fans can fall, water or power can be lost and gas leaks can occur.

The city of Magna, Utah was the epicenter of the most recent earthquake in March of 2020. Many aftershocks were felt days, and even a month after with magnitudes ranging from 2.5-4.6. No fatalities or injuries were reported, however many buildings along the Wasatch Front did experience damage, and traffic was also affected. A well-known story flooded the internet after the Angel Moroni on top of the Salt Lake City, LDS temple lost his trumpet during the earthquake. Local traffic was slightly affected as some local roads were closed and parts of the interstate. The FrontRunner services and TRAX were shut down for a portion of the day. After losing power and having small water damage, the Salt Lake International Airport canceled flights for that day, which affected many travelers and LDS missionaries coming home, due to COVID-19 quarantine regulations.

Other buildings had cracks down outside walls, outside corners fell off a number of buildings, homes lost power and had small damage inside. No hospitals reported any damage or need to evacuate, however those who were working at LDS Hospital that morning, said they did feel the building sway with low grade shaking. Although other areas were affected, Magna of course suffered the most.

A small independent sausage shop in Magna experienced significant damage to the outside structure of the building, causing the shop to close so that repairs could be made. 2 KUTV interviewed the owner of the sausage shop, Charlie Colosimo, who stated that the first aftershock following the initial earthquake caused the building to lose power.

On the day of this earthquake, the city of Magna was declared to be in a state of emergency. This declaration was made by local officials because of the damage to buildings, as well as gas leaks such as the one reported at Rio Tinto Kennecott’s refinery. People were evacuated from their homes, and businesses were shut down. Members of Magna’s Unified Fire crew were relocated to another location. Those who were evacuated were able to return home after a few days. Earthquakes are measurable, not predictable. To be prepared for one, drills and safety measures can be taken to be safe in the event of an earthquake.

The National Safety Council states that preparing homes and families for an earthquake includes securing large appliances. Heavy appliances should be hung on the walls and smaller appliances should be placed on stable surfaces. In the event of an evacuation, emergency survival kits should be readily available including safe drinking water. When an earthquake happens and people are inside, they should duck under a table hold on to it, this provides protection by covering their heads. If people are in bed, it is recommended that they lay flat on their stomachs if possible, and hold a pillow over their neck and head.

Local schools and hospitals perform practice drills every year and teach the same methods of protection stated above. In the event that individuals are outside, they should stand as far away from buildings as possible. When people are driving and feel an earthquake happening, it is recommended that they pull over and stop driving if possible. If an earthquake causes significant damage, local personnel will respond, and community preparedness plans should be followed.

Utah’s emergency operations plan states that the Department of Health has the major role of organizing other agencies for an earthquake and other emergency situations. The Department of Health coordinates with healthcare personnel such as EMTs, RNs, Physicians, pharmacy services, lab services, paramedics health administrators and other medical personnel and organizations. Everyone in their organizations have specific roles, but of course, they can help other organizations when needed. Each person in each department should receive training and education from their employers to better understand individual responsibilities, and to be comfortable knowing how to respond during an earthquake.

Local health departments provide services for specific local populations, but can ask for additional help and resources as they staff the Emergency Support Functions and provide incident information. Federal assistance is coordinated by the Division of Emergency Management. The American Red Cross organization helps in providing shelters, blood products and First-Aid stations. Utah National Guard organizations helps provide medical services as well as finding transportation and safe places for people to go.

The Department of Public Safety coordinate the security of emergency transportation as well as medical supplies. Updates and notices about water damage, resorting water and assistance in hazardous waste, is offered by the Department of Environmental Quality. Counseling and comfort techniques can be offered by the Department of Public Safety. Voluntary organizations can offer resources such as blankets, or hygiene kits to affected areas as well as CPR if needed. After an earthquake has passed, members of support agencies will help in reporting the events.

Although earthquakes and other disasters are not always predictable, it is important to be educated to know what to expect, and how to respond to any amount of damage. It is wise to coordinate a preparedness plan with neighbors, family and friends before an event takes place. Preparedness kits can be assembled over time by individuals and families, or can even be purchased as a complete package. If workers are not comfortable with their roles or don’t know how to respond, they should contact their managers to receive the proper training and education. Natural Disasters can be scary, but they can also be survivable.

Works Cited

  1. Breanna Olaveson, “5 Natural Disasters Likely to Hit Utah” 2014 https://utahvalley360.com/2014/02/03/5-natural-disasters-likely-to-hit-utah-and-how-you-can-be-ready/
  2. Utah Geological Survey https://geology.utah.gov/hazards/earthquakes/
  3. Lisa Wald, “The science of Earthquakes” 2020 https://www.usgs.gov/natural-hazards/earthquake-hazards/science/science-earthquakes?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
  4. Utah Department of Health, “Emergency Operations Plan” 2016 https://site.utah.gov/bemsp/wp-content/uploads/sites/34/2017/04/Utah-EOP-ESF8-Public-Health-and-Medical-June-2016.pdf
  5. Pat Reavy “5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Magna.” 2020 https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/3/18/21184993/5-7-earthquake-utah-magna-wasatch-front-salt-lake-city
  6. Michael Locklear, “Magna earthquake caused $20 million in damage.” 2020 https://kutv.com/news/local/magna-earthquake-caused-more-than-20-million-in-damage-county-says
  7. Tracy Smith, “Earthquake causes chemical leak Rio Tinto Kennecott refinery.” 2020 https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/earthquake-update-national-guard-deployed-to-monitor-kennecott-spill/

Cite this paper

Earthquakes and Other Disasters. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/earthquakes-and-other-disasters/

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