SALT LAKE CITY — Whether you grew up in the Beehive State or you hail from elsewhere, chances are you know many Utahns live on earthquake fault lines.
What you may not know is that 147,000 Utah homes are unreinforced masonry buildings.
"When you say unreinforced masonry, most people's eyes glaze over because there's so many syllables," said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.
"What (the term) means is homes that are built out of brick or blocks with no reinforcements," Dougherty said, noting these homes pose a notable danger for "450,000 Utahns that live in risk every single day."
The latest report from the Utah Department of Public Safety predicts a 43% likelihood of having at least one magnitude 6.75 earthquake in the next 50 years in Utah. However, emergency officials are concerned Utah homes, schools and churches are not prepared for the state's most likely disaster scenario.
At a two-day summit, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as local emergency management officials, emergency responders, structural engineers and disaster recovery experts gathered to discuss issues and solutions the state faces with its high number of unreinforced masonry buildings.
"The point of the summit was to bring all of the players together and say, 'We need to do something now,'" said Dougherty, noting that "we're trying to have a real conversation with Utah that says 'We have a problem, what can we do about it?'"
At the summit, officials discussed solutions such as devising a streamlined process and a standard for retrofitting schools and homes in Utah. They noted that issues such as cost impediment and lack of access to contractors trained in retrofitting pose barriers for may Utahns.
Officials praised initiatives such as Fix the Bricks, which directs federal grant dollars toward partial funding for residents wishing to retrofit their homes.
"There are so many options, to look at preparing, that it's very easy to get overwhelmed and then people just end up not doing any," said Dougherty.
In a 2008 survey of Utah's emergency preparedness conducted by the Utah Department of Public Safety, 78% of respondents noted they had a partial or complete family emergency plan in place.
However, Dougherty emphasized emergency preparedness is not enough. "Ninety-nine percent of the people in this earthquake are going to survive it. So what quality of life do you want to have in the recovery? Do you want to be a helper? Or do you want to be someone who is needing help?"
While Utah families seem to value emergency planning, an Envision Utah surveysuggests disaster resilience is not as high of a priority.
The 2015 survey asked Utahns to rank issues such as air quality, economy or job security in order of most important, and disaster resilience was only 10th on the list.
Officials at the summit noted the lack of public awareness around the dangers of unreinforced masonry buildings in Utah was concerning.9 comments on this story
"You have buildings that were built in our lifetimes, that may not be seismically sound. And that's a terrible thought. But what can we do now? We just need to move forward," Dougherty said.
According to Utah Earthquake Safety, the year a home was build can be one of the biggest indicators in determining whether it is an unreinforced masonry building.
The sitenotes that, because Utah began enforcing seismically safe buildings around 1975, most brick buildings built prior to 1980 will likely fall into that category. Fix the Bricks provides a map of areas where most unreinforced structures are located, as well as information on qualifying for grants to retrofit homes.