Utah Students at Risk
A preliminary survey of Utah public school buildings by the Utah Seismic Safety Commission and Structural Engineers Association of Utah found that:
- Utah faces a serious risk of a major earthquake. The most serious threat is a magnitude-7 rupture of the Salt Lake City segment of the Wasatch fault that could kill 2,300 to 2,900 people, injure 30,000 to 40,000 more and cause damage and other losses totaling $37 billion. Other Utah faults also could produce strong, destructive quakes.
- The Utah Seismic Safety Commission (USSC) and Structural Engineers Association of Utah (SEAU) used a method known as “rapid visual screening” to make a preliminary assessment of the earthquake safety of a sample of 128 school buildings out of more than 1,000 schools in the state of Utah. The Utah Schools Rapid Visual Screening Pilot Project was funded by $69,000 in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- Of the 128 public and charter school buildings screened using these so-called “sidewalk surveys,” 51 were determined to have an acceptable level of seismic safety, but 77 school buildings – or 60 percent – were found to require more detailed seismic evaluation to determine if they can withstand strong earthquakes or instead need to be retrofitted or replaced.
- Of the 77 school buildings needing further evaluation, 46 scored poorly enough that the screening guidelines suggest they are at least 10 percent likely to collapse during a major earthquake, and the scores of 10 of those buildings indicate they are highly likely to collapse during the “big one.”
- This pilot project highlights an urgent need to conduct rapid visual screening of all of Utah’s 1,000-plus schools to determine which meet seismic safety standards and which require more detailed seismic evaluation of the possible need for seismic retrofitting or replacement.
- It is hoped that this survey of a sampling of Utah schools leads to rapid visual screening of all Utah schools for seismic safety, and to a broader goal of establishing a systematic program – for public and charter schools statewide – that deals with the very real problem of the earthquake safety of Utah’s large number of older, seismically unsafe schools and other buildings.
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