JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri is home to one of the most active seismic zones in the U.S., the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), which was the location of one of the most powerful earthquakes ever to jolt the nation. It happened on Feb. 7, 1812, collapsing homes and buildings, altering the flow of the Mississippi River and reportedly ringing church bells hundreds of miles away.
The New Madrid quakes – there were two other very powerful earthquake in the region in 1811-12 – are the reason Missouri observes Earthquake Awareness Month each February. It’s an opportunity to educate the public about the very real risk of another catastrophic earthquake occurring in the NMSZ. While no one can predict exactly when an earthquake will occur, scientists agree that large earthquakes in this zone still pose a risk.
“A powerful earthquake like those that occurred 200 years ago would cause damage throughout southeastern Missouri and into the St. Louis area,” said Ron Walker, director of Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency. “It’s important for Missourians to prepare now, and Earthquake Awareness Month is an ideal time to learn about earthquake hazards and the importance of emergency preparedness.”
The most important five words about earthquake safety in Missouri are “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” Drop to the floor, take cover under a desk or table and hold is what people in modern, structurally sound buildings should do to protect themselves in the event of an earthquake.
There’s much more useful information and resources for families, schools and businesses on SEMA’s Earthquake Preparedness Web page. Included are fact sheets, interactive maps and informational videos that show what to do in the event of an earthquake. Go to http://www.sema.dps.mo.gov/earthquake_preparedness.
Simple earthquake safety steps anyone can take are:
• 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 falling debris.
• Put together an emergency kit, including a flash-light, 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 mains.
• Understand that earthquake coverage is not included in most homeowner insurance policies. It must be purchased as separate coverage, called an “endorsement.” This type of insurance requires that the earthquake is the direct cause of damage to the property. The Missouri Department of Insurance has more: http://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/home/EQTable.php
For a list of events scheduled during Missouri Earthquake Awareness Month go to: http://sema.dps.mo.gov/news/newsitem/uuid/4417d1a0-fcef-4612-a34f-c2633c968794