GEEQS — Geologists and Engineers for Earthquake Safety
Who are we?
We are the professional associations that represent most geologists, geological engineers, and structural engineers in Utah.
Why are we bringing you this message?
We are greatly concerned by the extremely high death and injury rates predicted in the next major earthquake in Utah and we want every person to have the information they need to protect themselves and their families.
- The Utah Comprehensive Emergency Management Agency has modeled several different likely earthquake scenarios (these models use programs designed by FEMA, combined with geologic studies of Utah’s earthquake risk and engineering studies of existing buildings in Utah). The high death and injury rates from these models should concern every Utahn about their family’s earthquake safety.
- The predicted numbers—thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries—sound like numbers that might be expected in a third-world nation, not in a state that prides itself on preparedness, in one of the most advanced nations in the world. Still, these numbers indicate the huge tragedy that the best available science tells us to expect, unless we make major changes before the next earthquake hits.
- In recent nearby geologic tragedies that have been in the news, including the rock fall near Zion National Park that killed two people (December 2013), and the Oso, Washington mudslide that killed 43 people (March 2014), survivors and grieving family members claimed that they weren’t warned. We want to make sure that every Utahn is warned about our earthquake risk, and the dangers of unreinforced masonry buildings.
- These deaths and injuries do not need to happen. They can and must be prevented. But, to prevent them, people at all levels must take these warnings seriously.
What are our goals?
- every Utahn to understand that Utah has high risk of a devastating earthquake.
- every Utahn to understand that unreinforced masonry (brick, stone, block, etc.) buildings (URMs) are likely to cause over 90% of deaths and serious injuries in the next major earthquake in Utah.
- every Utahn to take immediate action to reduce earthquake risks for themselves and their families. LINK
- owners, renters, elected officials, and communities to begin working together to prepare for earthquakes in their communities.
- owners, businesses, lenders, builders, engineers, and elected officials to:
- retrofit or replace the worst 10% of URMs in Utah’s high-risk earthquake zone within five years.
- retrofit or replace the worst 50% of URMs within 10 years.
- retrofit or replace all URMs in Utah’s high-risk zone within 20 years (some other earthquake-prone states and regions have adopted the slogan “URM-Free by 33”  – we support this effort).
- every person to seriously consider the quality of construction of buildings they own, rent, or occupy, and to take immediate action to retrofit buildings that don’t meet modern earthquake codes.
- elected officials, school boards, and government agencies at all levels to pass and enforce laws and ordinances that promote retrofitting and replacing all unsafe buildings.
- banks, mortgage companies, credit unions, and other lending institutions to recognize that financial losses will be huge, and that many people will have no choice but to walk away from mortgages; we want them to understand that programs and lending policies to promote retrofitting or replacing URMs will likely reduce large financial losses later.
- Utah’s legislature to work with banks and other lending institutions to create a loan program that forgives a small part of a loan after a URM is demolished. This program should target the worst 10% of URMs as defined by criteria established by Utah’s structural engineers.
- community groups, churches, school and parent-teacher groups, clubs, and other organizations to create neighborhood programs to work on this problem.
We know that it won’t be easy or cheap, but saving lives is worth the time and expense.