February 5, 2012

Central U.S. “ShakeOut” drill on Tuesday

Posted by Austin Elliott

On Tuesday, February 7, 2012–the 200th anniversary of the biggest of the New Madrid earthquakes–nine states in the central U.S. will conduct a regional earthquake drill put on by ShakeOut, a consortium of organizations and agencies concerned with earthquake research, hazard mitigation, and emergency preparation. Participation is voluntary, but public agencies, school districts, universities, and private companies are all registered and are taking advantage of both public awareness and prepared publicity materials to develop and exercise their disaster plans. The prepared publicity materials include descriptions of reasonable scenario earthquakes, including M6.5 quakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, or a more generic description for an unforeseen quake that may occur outside of these notable zones of seismicity. The ShakeOut website also includes images and media to share, as well as video and audio recordings to play during the allotted time of the drill.

As with the Great California ShakeOut, I encourage everyone to participate. Officially the drill is to take place at 10:15am, but I encourage everyone who’s considering participating to conduct their own earthquake “drills” everywhere they go: once an hour, stop yourself and think “what would I do if an earthquake hit this very moment?” Consider that you would have very little warning, and you may be in a very inopportune place. You won’t always have a sturdy table to dive under in the safety of your own home.

The drill this week focuses on a collection of states centered around the New Madrid seismic zone, a collection which comprises the region of strongest shaking and most damage in the 1811-1812 earthquakes. Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama all suffered substantial shaking during the huge quakes of those years’ winter. Oklahoma is included thanks both to its proximity to New Madrid and to its own seismic hazard, manifest in late 2011 when the Wilzetta Fault lurched to life and rattled homes across the state. This is by no means an exclusive list. Although MO, IL, and IN have had their share of moderate quakes, plenty of other U.S. states are at risk, and as we saw in August, sizable quakes are apt to occur almost anywhere.

Think about the recent quakes in Oklahoma and Virginia, and ask yourself whether you would have been prepared had they been bigger, worse, or closer to you! Take advantage of the resources these government agencies have put together to raise awareness and prepare our country for inevitable seismic disasters!