Recent Earthquake Activity Raises Interest in Earthquake Awareness Month
Missourians were reminded two months ago that the state’s New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is one of the most active seismic zones in the U.S.
Just before 9 p.m. on Nov. 17, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake near Poplar Bluff rattled furniture and shook wall hangings in thousands of homes.
Missouri observes Earthquake Awareness Month each February to emphasize the very real risk of a catastrophic earthquake occurring in the NMSZ. The NMSZ, centered in southeast Missouri generated some of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history. A series of major quakes occurred in 1811-12, destroying buildings, ringing church bells hundreds of miles away, and briefly causing the Mississippi River to run backward.
While no one can predict exactly when an earthquake will occur, scientists agree that large earthquakes in this zone still pose a risk.
The Nov. 17 temblor was the largest in Missouri since 1991. The area averages more than 200 earthquakes each year, though most are too small to be felt.
“The November earthquake was felt as far north as St. Louis and as far south as Memphis, Tennessee,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Remillard said. “While we’re grateful there was no significant damage and no one was seriously injured during that event, the shaking was another important reminder that if a major earthquake were to occur, Missouri would be directly impacted. That’s why it’s important that we are all prepared.”
As part of Earthquake Awareness Month, the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) has a two-part Facebook Live series scheduled at 10 a.m. on February 3 and February 10.
Part I: EQ Hazards & Safety
February 3 at 10:00 a.m.
Part II: EQ Hazards, Preparedness & Mitigation, and Financial Preparedness
February 10 at 10:00 a.m.
When shaking starts, the best way to stay safe is to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” to protect yourself from falling debris. Drop to your knees, cover your head and get under a desk or table if possible, and hold on until the shaking stops. Experts say that, in developed countries with modern structures, falling debris is the most common source of injuries.
It’s also important to prepare before the shaking, by taking some simple earthquake safety steps:
Bolt bookcases to wall studs, install strong latches on cupboards and strap your home's water heater to wall studs—if it tips over it could start a fire or gas leak, and you could lose a valuable source of water.
Secure overhead lighting fixtures and move heavy objects from high shelves to lower ones. Many injuries in an earthquake are caused by this falling debris.
Put together an emergency kit, including a flashlight, first aid kit, radio, drinking water and blankets. A major earthquake could leave families without utilities for weeks.
Develop a family communication plan. Identify a relative living at least 100 miles away; everyone can call to "check in" to tell family you're safe.
Know how to turn off your gas and water.
Find out if your house is covered for earthquake damage. Most homeowner insurance does not include earthquake coverage; it must be purchased separately.
Many more resources for families, schools and businesses are available on SEMA's Earthquake Preparedness webpage. Included are fact sheets, interactive maps and informational videos that show what to do in the event of an earthquake. Visit sema.dps.mo.gov/earthquake_preparedness for more information.