Earthquake Safety

Earthquake Safety

Holly Whistler, Staff Writer

The Wasatch Fault is Utah’s most significant fault line. It has produced earthquakes in the past that have reached a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale. Earthquakes of this magnitude happen every 1,300 years on average, and it’s been about that long since the last big quake. It is almost impossible to predict an earthquake and the timing depends on the pressure building in the fault; however, scientists say there is a 1 in 7 chance of a large earthquake occurring on the Wasatch Fault within the next 50 years. Scientists also predict that the next quake is most likely to be on the part of the fault close to Salt Lake City and it is estimated that 7,600 citizens will die when this quake occurs.

“It’s extremely important for students to be prepared for earthquakes,” said Mr. Bob Jeptesen, the Emergency Manager for the Salt Lake County Health Department. “Schools should come up with plans to keep them safe and even inform parents of these decisions so families can plan around what the schools are doing.”

Due to Utah’s seismic activity and the concentrated population near fault lines, it is important for citizens and schools to prepare for strong earthquakes, including Bingham. Unlike hurricanes or tornadoes earthquakes strike with little or no warning, so it’s imperative that schools have earthquake drills regularly to prepare students. Advice like “duck and cover” may sound like common sense, but in an emergency situation students are more likely to try to run or do other things to put themselves in danger unless they’ve had practice and remember what to do. In fact, every school in Utah is required to have an emergency earthquake plan and the Salt Lake City government recommends conducting an earthquake drill annually.

Schools should also continue to educate students on how to be safe during an earthquake instead of merely practicing hiding under desks. Experts are always looking for more ways for students to be safe during an emergency, and there are many instances where students wouldn’t know what to do during an earthquake. For example: what do you do if you are in the Copper Pit and there are no desks to hide under? Some students might say that they should hide in a doorway, but that is incorrect, outdated information. Most buildings don’t have reinforced doorframes, so the doorways are just as weak as any other wall. Instead of running for the doorframes students should actually hide in the corners and keep their heads covered.

Another action that was taught in schools for a while was the “triangle of life.” This theory claims that students should take shelter on the side of their desks rather than under them. That way if something fell on the desk, like a piece of ceiling, it would break down the middle and fall to the sides, forming a triangle around the desk that would keep students safe. Scientists have since disproved the theory by pointing out that the students are more likely to be crushed by falling furniture when hiding next to their desks instead of being crushed under their desks by a piece of ceiling. Schools weren’t wrong to teach this theory because they thought they were giving the students information that would keep them safe, but if they don’t update students on developing safety information then the students could end up following false advice and get themselves killed.

These simple drills and lessons take no more than a few minutes and are extremely beneficial to students living in an area where an earthquake could strike at any time. Bingham should not only continue to provide information on earthquake safety and conduct drills, but perhaps conduct drills more often to ensure the safety of students.