A volunteer panel that assesses earthquake risks in Utah said it examined nearly 130 school buildings in the state and found more than half fail to meet federal earthquake safety guidelines.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday that 77 of 128 Utah school buildings examined by the Utah Seismic Safety Commission failed the so-called sidewalk surveys last fall.
Officials say most school buildings are made of unreinforced bricks and blocks. They’d be unlikely to stand up to a significant temblor.
The 15-member commission — made up of engineers, architects, government officials and others — reviews earthquake hazards and advises lawmakers, and state and local agencies. Its latest findings are in a report called “Utah Students at Risk: The Earthquake Hazards of School Buildings.”
Using a computerized seismic evaluation tool approved by FEMA, the engineers found that 51 of the 128 school buildings were strong enough to withstand a significant temblor. Another 77 buildings had a 1-in-100 chance of collapsing during the biggest earthquake that is considered likely.
The Utah Geological Survey and U.S. Geological Survey have said an earthquake about 500 years ago tore a deep gash along a 35-mile section of the Wasatch Fault known as the Weber segment.
The quake was likely a magnitude 6.5 or 7 — large enough to cause major damage if it occurred today.
Project engineer Barry Welliver says all 1,000 school buildings in the state need to be checked.
“We’re trying to say you can’t afford to do nothing,” said Welliver, a member of the Structural Engineers Association of Utah, which co-sponsored the report.