Ogden • Jeny and Alberto Vasquez, of Syracuse, have seen firsthand the kind of devastation a major earthquake can cause.
Born and raised in Peru, Jeny was 12 when an earthquake with a magnitude of about 8 hit the South American country, killing thousands and destroying entire cities. Alberto was 16 when a quake of similar size occurred in his native Colombia.
When the couple decided to move to Utah, they had no idea they had chosen a state where an earthquake could again rattle their lives.
It's one of the reasons the couple spent a few hours Saturday at Weber State ShakeUp, an earthquake-preparedness fair.
"We're here to get more educated about what we can do," Jeny Vasquez said. "We're hopeful our kids won't have to go through what we did."
Alberto also planned to share the information with members of his Mormon ward, many of whom do not speak English. "A disaster is more difficult for people who are not prepared," he said.
Throughout the day, several hundred people made their way to WSU's Lind Hall, where they listened to speakers and picked up informational brochures about what they need to do before and when the "big one" hits.
Utahns tend to get complacent about earthquakes because the last large quake was more than 350 years ago, said Amanda Gentry, president of Weber's Geology Club, which sponsored the fair.
"We are about 250 years overdue," she said. "We have a 25 percent chance of having a 7 magnitude earthquake in the next 50 years."
Gentry said the student-run fair also was designed to raise awareness for the Great Utah ShakeOut, a statewide drill that will take place April 17 at 10:15 a.m. The drill will give government agencies, schools, businesses, hospitals and even individuals in Utah a chance to practice what to do in the event of a large earthquake.
Lance Peterson, who oversees emergency management for the Weber County Sheriff's Office, has dealt with floods, fires and even chemical spills. "But by far our worst hazard is earthquakes," he said. "If we are prepared for that, we are prepared for everything else."
Peterson said many people assume collapsed buildings cause all injures in an earthquake. In reality, falling objects cause most injuries.
He told participants to take a "home hazard hunt," identifying items that, if left unsecured, could fall during the shaking. These are usually top-heavy furniture items such as bookcases, televisions, stereos and microwaves as well as mirrors or pictures on a wall. Securing the water heater also will prevent gas and water damage.
"You don't need to be paranoid," Peterson assured the crowd. "But the more you understand about a hazard, the better prepared you will be."
Other speakers focused on the importance of having a family emergency plan for communicating in case of a disaster, and having 72-hour kits with food and water.
Chris Miller of Roy brought her five children and their grandfather to the fair to reinforce lessons she's taught at home.
"I don't want them to be scared," she said, "but I want them to understand that it can happen and to be prepared."
The Great Utah ShakeOut
This statewide drill will take place April 17 at 10:15 a.m. The event will give government agencies, schools, businesses, hospitals and even individuals a chance to practice what to do in the event of a large earthquake. Learn more at www.BeReadyUtah.gov