USSC E‑Newsletter

December 30, 2003                                                                                                              Volume 1, Number 2


In This Issue

·    Recent Earthquake News

·    January Commission Meeting

·    Barry’s Babble

Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security

Utah Geological Survey

Utah Seismic Safety Commission

Links of Note:

Western States Seismic Policy Council – Earthquake Program Information Center

Advanced National Seismic System – USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

FEMA HAZUS: Natural Hazard Loss Estimation Methodology

Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
University of UtahUtah Earthquake Information”

Contact Me:

Barry H. Welliver

Recent Earthquake News

December has been a very active month for earthquakes world-wide. A quick check of the USGS site reveals the following listing.

§         Dec. 27th, 2003 – Magnitude 7.3 Southeast of Loyalty Islands

§         Dec. 26th, 2003 - Magnitude 6.6 Iran

§         Dec. 22nd, 2003 – Magnitude 6.5 San Simeon, California

§         Dec. 10th, 2003 – Magnitude 6.8 Taiwan

§         Dec. 9th, 2003 – Magnitude 4.5 Virginia

Additionally, the University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that on December 26th, 2003 three magnitude 3.8 – 3.6 shocks were recorded in the West Hills area of Central Utah about 7 miles SW of Nephi.

Reports of 10’s of thousands dead in Iran shock the senses. Construction practices there are apparently a primary cause of the deaths, while the timing (early morning) certainly also played part.

Two deaths caused by a falling clock tower in the Paso Robles (San Simeon) earthquake point out that older construction practices in the U.S. certainly represent a continuing risk for communities unprepared to tackle these problems.

A preliminary Earthquake Engineering Research Institute report suggests further that buildings situated on corner lots faired far worst than those sandwiched along tightly filled blocks.

All this seems noteworthy for Utah. There is a growing body of evidence which shows that ignorance is certainly not bliss.

January 16th 2004 USSC Meeting

Our program on the Marriott Library Retrofit proposal should help us focus on the seismic problems of this building as well as the potential inventory and life loss possibilities. While the legislature will be tasked with deciding the ultimate priority this project has for the state, our goal should be to become knowledgeable advocates for seismic safety.

Remember to visit to view past WSSPC award recipients and read about selection criteria and categories. We’ll need to get started on nominations for these projects during this meeting.

Our matrix/strategy meetings are beginning to focus on “putting the pieces together”. This ad-hoc group will report on progress to date and make some hopefully thought provoking recommendations. Please remember that each commissioner is responsible for setting the course of priorities and while this ad-hoc committee will put forth a recommended plan, it is the entire commissions’ responsibility to choose the path.

A tour of the ABC facility will be offered to those interested at the close of our meeting. We will also provide a box lunch following the tour. Refreshments will be non-alcoholic.

Barry’s Babble

With the recent rash of seismic activity, I felt a quick update was in order. As you might surmise, the issue of unreinforced masonry buildings has been on my mind.

Some images are hard to forget. Seeing a pile of bricks compressing the hood of an automobile helps me remember that each one of those bricks weighs more than I’d like to think. Throw them down at something and it’s not a pretty sight. Keeping them in place is a difficult task, yet assuming that they will stay put in an earthquake is foolhardy.

There are numerous quotes regarding the unsafe nature of unreinforced masonry buildings surrounding the Paso Robles earthquake deaths. (unsafe = unreinforced; safe = reinforced) They come from building officials, engineers, seismologists and shop owners. The picture is clear yet the solution is sometimes dragged out or ignored. Using this evidence may help motivate decision-makers in our state and hopefully we can facilitate some improvements here.

Of note is the recent (12/30/03) adoption of a geologic hazards ordinance in Draper, UT. Modeled after the Salt Lake County ordinance which has been in place for several years, the Draper ordinance is another example of local jurisdictions being receptive to hazard mitigation. I’ll recommend we endorse the work in this area at our January meeting and offer some possible further ways to be advocates for land planning issues.


Have a Happy and safe New Year.

Barry H. Welliver