Lessons from Napa: Earthquake warns Utahns of sleeping giant

Published: Sunday, Aug. 31 2014 8:05 p.m. MDT

A truckload of fencing is brought to Second Street outside the earthquake damaged building that housed the Carpe Diem wine bar Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Napa, Calif.

Eric Risberg, AP

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SALT LAKE CITY — Derek Moore remembers waking up at shortly before 3:30 in the morning, terrified.

Though he was asleep, the long-time Napa resident said he had an instant awareness of what was happening.

"When the earthquake struck, I knew immediately what it was," he said, recalling the violent shaking that hit wine country eight days ago.

His wife, December, began to yell. He did the only thing he could think of — he embraced her and told her everything was going to be OK.

"Even though in my heart really, I had no idea. And was just as terrified as I'm sure she was in that moment."

The stillness of complete darkness and silence followed.

"I was thinking, why aren't my children screaming?" he said, recalling the moment when his panic began to rise.

They fumbled for light and made it down their hallway toward Claire, 4, and Jack, 6.

Moore heard Claire opening her door, but couldn't hear anything from his son's room.

"When I turned the knob and went to open the door, I couldn't get in because something was blocking it," he said. "I started to yell for him and that's when he started screaming."

Lesson 1: Remain calm. It was the screaming for the child, not the earthquake that concerned young Jack.

The 6.0 quake near Napa sent glass and furniture flying. It was Jack's dresser drawer that kept him locked in his room.

Derek Moore was finally able to push it out of the way, collect his family and usher them through their hallways through broken glass and dislodged drawers, and out of the house.

Lesson 2: He said their family simply wasn't prepared.

"All the things that you're supposed to have, we don't," he said. "It's really ridiculous. I mean, we live in earthquake country."

And so do Utahns.

"We do live next to a sleeping giant," said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. "Eighty-five percent of the state's population lives along the Wasatch Fault." And much of what can be done, has not been done.

The risks

"We do have a significant number of older homes in Utah," Dougherty said. "It's not the old that makes them unsafe, it's the materials that they're built out of.

These unreinforced masonry dwellings, buildings that are made of brick without a wooden frame, are frequent among Utah homes.

According to a 2012 Catastrophic Earthquake Response Plan, there are 147,200 unreinforced masonry buildings in the 12 counties closest to the Wasatch Fault.

Ninety-two percent of the building stock in those counties is residential.

Todd Kiser, commissioner of the Utah insurance department, said less than 10 percent of business and home owners in the state have earthquake insurance.

He said most policies do not include earthquake coverage.

Kiser said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wants Utahns to know the insurance department is there to help. Kiser also said Utahns should ask themselves the "hard questions" once a year.

"Dont' assume that you have coverage," he said.

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