What is a URM?
An Unreinforced Masonry (URM) building is one in which the primary supporting walls are brick, cinderblocks, stone, adobe, or concrete. This means the building is not braced by reinforcing material.
Why is this a problem?
URMS do not have the structural support to properly withstand shaking associated with a severe earthquake. Brick or block walls generally perform very poorly in the side-to-side shaking cause by earthquakes.
Why does this matter in Utah?
Utah has over 200,000 URMS- approximately 20% of our occupied buildings. Over 2.5 million Utahns live within 30 miles of an earthquake fault line.
Below is the U.S. seismic hazard map showing the earthquake peak ground acceleration that has a 2% of increasing in the next 50 years. Red indicates the highest hazard and grey is the lowest.
As you can see Utah is mostly yellow with the majority of our densely populated areas in orange, red, and pink.
In Utah we pride ourselves on being prepared but on this we are vastly underprepared.
2018 USGS long term Nation Seismic Hazard Map
What can we do about this?
During the legislative session I presented House Bill 366 to fund the Utah Seismic Safety Commission to help to ensure we are prepared. Unfortunately, it did not pass. Now we are currently doing an interim study on how we can get information to our neighbors who live in URMS. That way they can have what they need to protect their lives and their homes when a stronger earthquake happens. I would encourage everyone to contact their legislatures and let them know this critical and lifesaving study needs to be given the attention it deserves.
Below are a couple resources that can help you notice if something is wrong in your home and hopefully help you fix it.
The five recommendations made by FEMA for our community.
Informative video on how to spot unreinforced masonry and the damage that can happen when homes are not retrofitted to with stand an earthquake.
This video's talks about damages caused by the earthquake and gives advice on how things could have been built better.
This program helps Salt Lake City residents retrofit their homes with a grant.
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