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ISU group works to prepare SE Idaho for earthquakes

A group of students at Idaho State University is working to help counties in Southeast Idaho prepare for an earthquake.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Southeast Idaho has a 57 percent chance of having a 6.0 magnitude earthquake sometime in the next 50 years.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management wants people to know what to do should that happen.

Currently, FEMA has a model in place to prep counties for earthquakes. But Mark Stephensen, southeast field officer for IOEM, said he feels there are a few things its model lacks.

“To me, it is somewhat incomplete in looking at some of the tangibles and intangibles for economic losses due to an event, in this case, a seismic event,” Stephensen said.

So IOEM is working with Bengal Solutions to develop a different model – one that does focus on potential losses from an earthquake.

“A lot of people in this area, the majority of the people in this area do not have earthquake insurance,” Stephensen said. “So if their loss is caused by earthquakes, those damages would have to be absorbed by the individuals themselves and businesses themselves.”

The project focuses on four Southeastern counties: Caribou, Bear Lake, Oneida and Franklin.

Each county is on board with the model development. The model will help show those counties how best to prepare the county for an earthquake, in a way that will minimize loss and damage as much as possible.

It would help point out any gaps or flaws with emergency planning in the county.

The model will also show people how they can recover from an earthquake – how businesses can bounce back, how homeowners can rebuild.

Stephensen said if the model catches on, it could be a stepping stone with far-reaching effects for other organizations to use as a model.

He said the students at Bengal Solutions have been great on the project.

“They have been remarkable,” Stephensen said. “I have been very impressed with their capabilities and their enthusiasm.”

He said the goal is to have the model complete by the end of April. Once it’s complete, the group will begin presenting it to the counties. There will be tabletop exercises for city officials. The counties can also set up other exercises, like medical drills, to practice its emergency protocols. So Stephensen said it could be a very involved project all-around.

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