Utah due for damaging earthquake: How you and your family can prepare

(KSTU) -- An magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Alaska is bringing up conversations about natural disaster preparedness in Utah—a place prone to similar seismic activity.

The Utah Division of Emergency Management says Utah experiences about 700 to 800 earthquakes a year. While most aren’t big enough to feel, the possibility of a large one looms.

Joe Dougherty with the Division of Emergency Management said a large-scale quake is 50 percent likely to happen in the next half-century. Especially because the Wasatch Front sees a damaging earthquake every 350 years, and it’s been around 350 years since the last one shook the area.

“Worst case scenario for Utah… would be a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that happens along the Wasatch Front,” he said.

If the “big one” hits, is your family ready?

“Most people are going to survive this earthquake,” he said. “But, what quality of life do you want to have in the aftermath? What kind of recovery do you want to have?”

Dougherty said people should focus on preparation in three areas—work, home, and vehicles.

Around his own home, Dougherty pointed out how he’s installed cabinet latches and devices to keep furniture from tipping over. He strapped his water heater to the wall.

He and his wife have created a stash of toiletries including toothpaste, floss, soap and toothbrushes.

“Just making sure that we have some of these supplies because we don't have to go out and try to find these things in a disaster,” he explained.

In the coat closet near his front door, Dougherty pulled out two backpacks. These are “grab ‘n’ go bags,” filled with essentials to survive in case their family needs to leave without warning.

They include nonperishable food, water, cash, first aid items and other supplies like hand warmers, ponchos, flashlight, whistle and a pocket knife.

He said these bags are meant to fill an immediate need, not for long-term survival.

For that—he’s got an entire room in his basement designated to keep his family going for weeks after a disaster.

“Toilet paper, paper towels, and food, and then of course water too, is the big thing,” he said, listing off what’s stocked on the shelves.

For anyone who hasn’t started this kind of survival storage system, he said the Holiday Season is the perfect time to get one going.

“We do encourage people during the holidays to consider, what preparedness gifts might you be able to give to somebody?”

A gift of survival, and just as importantly, a peace of mind.

Find complete information on earthquake and disaster preparedness here.