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Utah may start sending earthquake alerts to your phone

Person looking at their phone
Jonas Leupe
Person looking at their phone

A little over two years ago, Utah shook. Magna was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake and did $70 million in damage, but Utah state earthquake program manager John Crofts said Magna isn’t the last of Utah’s earthquakes.

“A lot of people understand or have the misconception that the earthquake that we had, Magna, relieved the stress along the Wasatch fault,” Crofts said. “That's not necessarily true. There is still sufficient stress along the fault.”

In order to help Utah prepare, geologists are looking into the feasibility of an alert system, similar to Amber Alerts. Utah geological survey director Bill Keach said the alerts aren’t just to help you get to a safer place.

“The intent of an earthquake early warning is to send notifications to people that they might need to get out,” Keach said. “To utilities that they might need to shut down, and to transportation that they might need to stop for a moment.”

Keach said the system would send alerts after the first earthquake wave, in preparation for the more damaging waves. He said it’s no easy task.

“No one can predict when an earthquake will occur. What we can do with technology today, is to get some advance notice before the more damaging waves show up at your house,” Keach said.

Crofts said while this is a big effort to coordinate, Utah has no shortage of helping hands.

“There's a large variety of groups and individuals that really want to make Utah a better, safer place,” Crofts said. “We're working to improve our future.”

Geologists are in the first step of the process right now after receiving $150,000 for a feasibility study from the Legislature.

Emma Feuz is a senior at Utah State University majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She grew up in Evanston, Wyoming where, just like Utah State, the sagebrush also grows. Emma found her love of writing at an early age and slowly discovered her interest in all things audio and visual throughout her years in school. She is excited to put those passions to use at UPR. When school isn't taking up her time, Emma loves longboarding, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and cleaning the sink at Angies.