The 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked northeast Nevada early Thursday morning should serve as a reminder of the threat posed by seismic activity. A good share of Utahns are vulnerable to a similar fate by virtue of living along the Wasatch fault. The early reports of the earthquake about 11 miles southeast of Wells, Nev., are instructive.
At press time, it appears that no one was killed or seriously injured as a result of the earthquake. That is very good news. This may be due to the fact that the quake occurred in the early morning before many people had started work or school. It also may be a function of the types of buildings in the rural town of about 1,500 people. There are no multistory buildings. Structures in the town's largely unoccupied historic district appeared to take the hardest hit. Those structures likely were constructed before modern building codes were envisioned.
Elsewhere in town, two buildings were partially collapsed, and two main water lines ruptured. A truck stop was evacuated due to a propane leak, although the breach was contained by midmorning. Homes were in disarray, and some cars were damaged by falling debris. The quake itself was followed by a number of aftershocks. Many residents of Wells and the surrounding areas will be cleaning up for days to come.
Such events remind us how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature. In the post 9/11 world, the specter of terrorism may be foremost on our minds when we prepare for emergencies in the community or in our own homes. That certainly has its place. But Utahns must not lose sight of what they would do in the event of a natural disaster such as a wildfire, flooding or seismic activity.
Every family should have a disaster plan. Where would the family meet in the event of an emergency? Is the family prepared to live on its own for a few days in the event of a large-scale disaster? How would pets be provided for? Does everyone in the home know how to shut off gas and water lines? Who knows first aid? Who in the neighborhood would check on senior citizens and people with disabilities?
Aside from helping the people of northeast Nevada restore order to their lives and their communities, this event should be viewed as an opportunity to take inventory in our own state of emergency preparedness and make improvements where we are deficient.