USSC E‑Newsletter

March 24, 2004                                                                                                              Volume 2, Number 2


In This Issue

·   Living with Earthquakes

·    April Commission Meeting Notes

·    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

Living with Earthquakes


Preparedness, emergency response, and recovery are three components of the reality of living in areas prone to earthquakes. Like acknowledging the effects of changing seasons, the consequences of earthquakes require consideration in everyday planning. We surely don’t need to keep our snow-blowers handy during the summer months, but knowing that winter looms in the future is sufficient to remind us to keep it nearby and in proper condition (and even to purchase one if we’ve gone through a tough winter of shoveling!).

How we prioritize earthquakes in our lives says something about our degree of knowledge and concern regarding their effects. If we don’t consider the likelihood that our routines will be disrupted, then there is little need for any planning on our part. The personal safety issues become minimized and we don’t worry too much about providing safety nets or alternatives to our routines.

We put on a seat belt when we get into our automobiles not because we plan to be in an accident, but because we’ve seen the benefits of this device should there be trouble. Having no “seatbelt” for earthquakes in our lives can seem safe given that we don’t experience the dangers as frequently, but considering the return benefit for the effort, this “idea” might begin to make sense.

Some of the “effort” needed in living with earthquakes can and should be provided by our government resources. In Utah, we have a whole division – Emergency Services – dedicated to that concern and others. This is a service whose work remains dormant for the most part, yet appreciated in that needed time. Leadership at the state level will confirm that knowledge of the earthquake danger was not ignored or minimized.


April 2nd, 2004 USSC Meeting Notes


Our upcoming commission meeting will focus on the work of our ad hoc committee previously called the “Matrix/Strategy” team. For some obvious reasons, we are foreshortening this to the strategy group.

As you will recall, we have adopted a simplified plan matrix broken into three broad areas. Learning About Earthquakes, Building For Earthquakes and Living With Earthquakes identifies these categories.

It will be our intention to walk through three basic steps as we “parse the earthquake problem” for our planning purposes here in Utah.

The first part will be to visit briefly the highlights of our work as a commission since our last published update to the Strategic Plan in December 2000. This information is provided in the meeting agenda mailed to all commissioners. It consists of selected items from our meeting minutes (and memory) and describes our various interests and programs. Please briefly review this before the meeting.

The follow up parts will help us take stock of what we’ve done and then concentrate on the things we can and should be doing. I’d highly recommend each commissioner re-read the “Implementing the Vision” section of the minutes of the July 18th, 2003 meeting ( as a refresher. You can now readily view many of the previous minutes online at our revamped website (Thanks Amisha and Bob)

All this is aimed to point toward identifying actions which we will take on for the immediate future. It will also hopefully re-invigorate our standing committees and commissioners to support a simpler theme which may spawn steps in the journey toward seismic safety.


Barry’s Babble


As I listen to the congressional inquiries about what was known and not known prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks, I think about the responsibility knowledge brings. There is an expectation that if a particular danger is suspected, warnings and defensive actions need to be taken.

I’m not planning my “defense” should an earthquake strike and the questions of “what did you know and when did you know it?” come my way, but still it helps motivate the message in my mind. If I “know” that unreinforced masonry buildings are unsafe and yet I don’t “do” something about it, then shame on me.

A theme you may hear in the April 2nd commission meeting is “We want you to (do)…”. It has been bandied about in the matrix/strategy meetings and is a recurring idea to help breakdown the seemingly overwhelming task of “selling” earthquake safety. Our target audiences are decision-makers and affected peoples.

Lastly, the California Seismic Safety Commission recently held their monthly meeting at the Paso Robles Inn. This, you will recall, was the town most affected by the December 2003 San Simeon earthquake. Their agenda included a hearing on the effects of the earthquake and I hope to share some information regarding this at our next commission meeting.



Barry H. Welliver