Impacts of an Earthquake


A major earthquake on the Teton Fault would have many serious impacts here in Teton County.

Serious Injury & Death

Most  importantly, there are going to be people who are injured or killed  during the earthquake. The shaking itself does not usually cause  injuries, but rather falling objects, shattering glass, and collapsing  structures are the culprit.

Cascading Events

When a large earthquake occurs, usually it is after the shaking stops that the major problems occur. Earthquakes are a type of disaster that can cause what are known as cascading events. Examples of cascading events would be broken gas lines fueling fires, loss of electricity, disrupted routes of transportation, landslides, dam ruptures, or any other secondary disaster caused initially by the earthquake.

Now, in addition to the damage caused by the earthquake, emergency services have to deal with these cascading events as well. With limited resources and damaged roadways, you can see how these cascading events can compound an already difficult situation.

Firefighters Putting out a Fire

Isolated Communities Within Teton County Island

In Emergency Management, we refer to this as Teton County's "islands". An earthquake can collapse bridges, cause both landslides and avalanches, and damage roads making them impassable. This can easily isolate communities within Teton County not allowing the people already there to leave, and more importantly blocking emergency services from reaching them. Teton County has taken steps to alleviate the "island effect" by spreading out our emergency apparatus such as ambulances and fire trucks throughout the county. Emergency Management and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS have also placed mass casualty equipment caches in all of the fire stations located throughout the county so that major first aid supplies are available to communities even if routes are shut down to Jackson.

Limited Resources Available for Response & Recovery

Due to Teton County's remote location, and the fact that an earthquake of the 7 magnitude range would be a regional event, there may be limited  outside resources initially available to assist us. Major emergency response teams from Idaho Falls, Salt Lake City, or Denver can generally  mobilize within half a day to a day. They may not be able to reach Teton County for days, however, due to collapsed bridges, damaged  airstrips, or ruptured roadways. That is why Teton County Emergency Management stresses that every family has at least a 72 hour preparedness kit, and preferably one that will last a week.

Emergency Response Vehicle

These damaged roads and bridges will also make it difficult for local emergency responders to report for duty. During a widespread disaster such as a major earthquake, you will need to band together with your neighbors to do the most good for the most people, all the while keeping your personal safety in mind.

Economic Impacts to Local Business

According  to a 2006 Small Business Administration study, up to 25% of small  businesses fail to reopen following a disaster. Most of this is due to  lack of planning, but some disasters are just too great to overcome. In  our community we depend on small businesses, and if 25% of them failed  to reopen it would be catastrophic for our economy.