(TNS) — It is easy to forget that slightly more than 100 years ago some of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded rocked Illinois and Missouri, but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency will be reminding people throughout the month of February.
The Metro East is situated near two fault lines — including the New Madrid Fault, which produced the largest earthquakes in the continental U.S. in 1811-1812.
“In addition to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where the 1811-12 quakes occurred, southern Illinois is also adjacent to the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone,” said IEMA Interim Director Jennifer Ricker. “We can’t predict when the next devastating earthquake in this region will happen, but we can help people learn how to protect themselves and reduce damage to their homes.”
The region remains the most seismically active in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, according to the Missouri Geological Survey.
The survey also noted that the region “appears to be about 30 years overdue for a magnitude 6.3 quake, while the probability of a repeat of the 1811-1812 (magnitude 7.5-8.0) earthquake is 7-10 percent.”
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake would cause major damage throughout the region.
The area known as the American Bottoms, ranging from Alton south to Monroe County, and much of St. Charles County between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, have a higher earthquake hazard because of the floodplain and soft sediments, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s St. Louis Area Earthquake Hazards Mapping Project.
According to the website, the St. Louis area has “experienced minor earthquake damage at least 12 times in the past 205 years.”
It was also noted that because of the region’s geology, earthquakes in this area will have a larger impact compared to West Coast earthquakes of a similar magnitude and a “substantial number” of historic brick and stone buildings make the St. Louis area vulnerable to moderate earthquakes.
Ricker and others have said the best advice for when an earthquake occurs is to:
• DROP where you are, onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and also allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter, if nearby.
• COVER your head and neck with one arm and hand. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter, if no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows), and stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs.
• HOLD ON until shaking stops. If you are under shelter hold on to it with one hand and be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts. If not under shelter, hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands.
There are several steps people can take to help prevent injuries and property damage at home, such as strapping water heaters and large appliances to wall studs, anchoring overhead fans and light fixtures, and securing cabinet doors with latches. IEMA offers several short videos on do-it-yourself earthquake home mitigation projects at https://www.illinois.gov/iema/Mitigation/Pages/EarthquakeMitigationVideos.aspx.
In general, IEMA and other agencies and groups dealing with disaster preparedness say that people must be able to survive on their own for a minimum of three days in the event of a widespread disaster, such as an earthquake or tornado.
The plan includes making sure everybody knows how to get out of the house in an emergency, where to meet and who to call.
Having an emergency preparedness kit is also important.
While most homes would usually have most of the items needed, a key is keeping them in a central and easily accessible location, as well as storing them properly.
If forced to leave your home, emergency evacuation kits are often referred to as “go bags,” “bug-out bags,” or “GOOD (Get out of Dodge) bags,” and include the basics needed to get by.
Lists of recommended supplies can be found at various websites, and pre-made “bug-out bags” can be purchased at a wide variety of outlets. Preparedness tips and information are also available through the Ready Illinois Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/ReadyIllinois) and Twitter Page (twitter.com/ReadyIllinois).
Reach reporter Scott Cousins at 618-208-6447.
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