Major earthquake could wreak havoc on Utah schools

The morning after the tornado in Moore Oklahoma, my family sat down for breakfast. We were shocked by the damage that had occurred. We knew that the tornado was bad, but the pictures outdid our imagination. The pictures showed what was left of the town, but one picture stuck out to me: a picture of a teacher (seen below) embracing one of his students after the tornado. The photo shows what truly happened that day when nine students lives were taken. It made me think about students in Utah, and whether or not we are safe in case of an emergency.

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As many of you know, Utah faces a serious risk of a major earthquake. The most serious threat, according to the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, 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 totaling $37 billion. Of the 128 public and charter school buildings that the USSC screened in 2010 using 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 could withstand strong earthquakes. Of those schools, 46 scored poorly enough that the screening guidelines say 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.” The USSC says there is 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 with Utah’s growing population and high birth rate, we know there are going to be even more students in these unsafe buildings.

The last thing anyone wants is our students to get injured or worse in a natural disaster. So why hasn’t this come to the legislature’s attention? Why aren’t we doing more about this? Sure, we are making the federal building safe and City Creek Center safe, but schools are supposed to be a place where parents can know their kids are safe. And right now that isn’t the case.

As a student, this is something that affects me. How can I be sure I am safe? How can I be sure my friends at other schools are safe? My school, and others, have done drills for these kinds of situations, but unless the building you are standing in is able to withstand the earthquake, no amount of drilling will keep you safe. This is something that our government needs to look into and fix immediately. We can’t sit around and hope for the best, or say “it hasn’t happened so it won’t happen.” This is a very possible threat for our students, and as a student I feel like my safety in case of a natural disaster isn’t being properly prepared for. We can avoid losing student lives, why aren’t we?

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