Salt Lake City’s “Fix the Bricks” Program to Provide Financial Assistance for Retrofitting Homes that are Most Vulnerable in a Major Earthquake

Do you live in one of 30,000 typical brick homes built in Salt Lake City before 1970? Emergency management experts say in the event of a massive—and long predicted—earthquake, you’re living with an enormous safety risk.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski, along with emergency management leaders from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the state of Utah, will join together on Thursday, November 3rd to announce financial and educational support for retrofitting older brick homes through a federal disaster mitigation grant program: “Fix the Bricks.”

Pre-1970 homes are known in disaster relief parlance as “unreinforced masonry houses,” or URMs. There are 144,000 URMs scattered across the Salt Lake Valley, said Cory Lyman, Director of Salt Lake City Emergency Management. A major tremor along the Wasatch Front would reduce most of them to rubble.

The State Division of Emergency Management predicts “The Big One” could kill as many as 2,500 people, injure up to 9,000 others, and cause more than $34 billion in property damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) considers the many brick homes in Utah and particularly the Salt Lake Valley, to be the region’s highest disaster mitigation priority. With the goal of promoting greater seismic safety, FEMA, supported by the city, county and state, is providing federal grant funding to offset costs of seismic upgrades.

Mayor Biskupski and disaster management leaders will explain the funding and application process, along with information about securing roofs, bracing chimneys, and other safety upgrades possible through the city’s “Fix the Bricks” program.

“Salt Lake City is leading the effort in earthquake preparedness and safety by retrofitting our public buildings, and we are encouraging homeowners to join us,” Mayor Biskupski said. “By helping to offset these improvements, which we know can be costly, we hope to make our community safer for everyone.”