5.7 magnitude earthquake hits near Magna, UT

Posted on Mar 18, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A strong earthquake shook homes from Spanish Fork to Logan to Park City on Wednesday morning, March 18, causing damage to buildings in the Great Salt Lake area, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

United States Geological Survey reported that a total of 34 aftershocks had been recorded. Authorities said they expected 30 to 40 people to be displaced, and a state of emergency was declared by Magna, Utah’s municipal administrator.

While we typically associate earthquakes with areas such as California, this earthquake is further evidence of changing seismic patterns in the US.  You may remember the 4.0 magnitude earthquake that recently hit the Cleveland, Ohio area in June 2019.

According to the USGS, between 1973–2008, there was an average of 25 earthquakes of magnitude three and larger in the central and eastern part of the country. This rate ballooned to over 600 M3+ earthquakes in 2014 and over 1000 in 2015. Although this number has decreased in recent years, it is still much higher than the natural earthquake rate and affecting areas previously thought “safe.”

The USGS in recent years has been monitoring and reevaluating the hazard due to earthquakes to account for these recent changes.

For those of us who plan and build warehouses and racking, it’s a reminder of how critical it is to make sure that all building and material handling structures are up-to-code for the area in which they are built.

With a better understanding of structural performance during an earthquake event, standards will continue to evolve, placing more demand on the rack design.

And this doesn’t apply only to new rack installations.  One of the dangers is due to rack that is moved or repurposed for areas for which it was not engineered.

Per rack engineer Arlin Keck PE, “Old habits are hard to break. Unfortunately, that also pertains to old perceptions.  Many of us remember when the only time that seismic design was considered was for installations going into California (and possibly the St. Louis – Memphis corridor).  As the recent earthquake in Lake Erie illustrated, that is no longer the case.  When purchasing new storage racks, it behooves the end-user to choose a rack manufacturer (that) is an R-Mark certified member of the Rack Manufacturers Institute, to design your racking system to assure that the structure is seismic-compliant.”

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) Standard is the recognized U.S. specification for the design, testing, and utilization of industrial steel storage racks. Responsible rack users will want to demonstrate that their racks meet this recognized standard for seismic design. RMI created the R-Mark Certification Program as a way for storage rack users and customers to clearly identify those rack manufacturers whose components and design are in accordance with the RMI Specifications. Steel King® is one of 22 rack manufacturers that holds an active R-Mark License.

Another consideration is that one of the continuing trends within warehousing includes automation – in the form of both pick modules and automated storage and retrieval systems. Both systems raise the stakes of a potential rack collapse – in terms of expensive equipment and the lives of people working within the structure.

All rack should be installed and used in accordance with seismic requirements for maximum safety. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call.

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