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When emergencies and disasters collide: Lessons from the response to the Magna, Utah earthquake during the COVID-19 pandemic

David A. McEntire, PhD


The following article addresses the complexities of responding to the Magna, Utah earthquake under conditions of the global corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The article begins with a brief mention of the literature on complex disasters along with the research methods employed for the study. Contextual information about COVID-19 and the Magna earthquake are then provided along with general issues that had to be addressed in the public health emergency and after the seismic hazard occurred. The following two sections identify how COVID-19 benefited the response to the earthquake as well as how the virus complicated operations after the tremor. The article then discusses major lessons of this research and provides recommendations for future study and practice. Overall, this research reveals that the responses to these two simultaneous events witnessed successes as well as significant challenges. The appearance of COVID-19 may have limited injuries or the loss of life during the Magna earthquake, and it also enabled an early activation of the emergency operations center (EOC). However, COVID-19 presented unique challenges for evacuation, sheltering, and damage assessment functions. The pandemic also altered the nature of EOC operations, created the need for a virtual response, and had distinct implications for financial accounting and personnel workload.


COVID-19, earthquake, complex responses, emergency management functions

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