Kansas City, MO -- Midwesterners expect and prepare for the winter hazards of snow and ice and the summer hazards of tornadoes and floods. But the non-seasonal threat of earthquakes may not register on every family's hazard scale. So, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VII is urging residents to become "Earthquake Aware" because it can happen and has happened here.
FEMA Region VII, which is comprised of the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, is home to the New Madrid Fault, the most seismically active region in the United States east of the Rockies. Since 1974, seismic detection instruments in the New Madrid Seismic Zone have recorded over 4000 earthquakes. The Nemaha Fault runs from Oklahoma north under Topeka, Kan., to Lincoln, Neb., with a branch that runs under St. Joseph, Mo. Residents of rural northwest Missouri occasionally report tremors. Earthquake shaking has also been felt in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska in the last year.
The New Madrid Fault, named for the Missouri Bootheel town of New Madrid, caused some of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded on the North American continent over a three-month period during the winter of 1811-1812. The quaking continued over 18 months. The shocks rang church bells in Boston. Large areas sank into the earth, new lakes were formed, and the Mississippi River changed its course. The most powerful shock was estimated to be greater than magnitude 8.0 and occurred on February 7, 1812.
When that earthquake hit, the region was still a frontier and sparsely populated. Such an event today would cause untold devastation: billions of dollars in damages to cities, bridges, roads, dams, and the potential loss of thousands of lives. For example, in the 1994 Northridge, Cal. earthquake, 33 lives were lost and damages reached $20 billion. In Kobe, Japan, in 1995, a magnitude-6.7 earthquake caused $100 billion in damage and the loss of 5,500 lives. The loss of life and destruction in these earthquakes of moderate magnitude dramatically emphasize the need for residents of the Mississippi Valley to prepare further for an earthquake of such magnitude.
To spread the word about the need for earthquake preparedness, Missouri Governor Bob Holden has proclaimed February 1-8 as Earthquake Awareness Week. Activities sponsored by the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) will provide information for business and private individuals, and hands-on activities for kids and families. A complete listing of events is available on the SEMA webpage: www.sema.state.mo.us/EQ%20Awareness.htm
Though devastating, earthquakes are survivable. Here are a few preparedness tips you and your family should take before an earthquake occurs:
- Buy earthquake insurance.
- Buy a 20-gallon garbage can and fill it with emergency supplies.
- Retrofit your home to make it more resistant to earthquake damage.
- Educate your children about earthquake safety.
- Anchor heavy furniture, shelves, cupboards and appliances to the walls or floor.
- Store dangerous chemicals such as flammable liquids and poisons in a secure place.
- Learn how to shut off the gas, electricity and water.
- Have money in savings for post-catastrophic expenses that aren't covered by your earthquake insurance policy. These expenses may include higher insurance deductible and repair or replacement claims that exceed your policy limits.
And here's what you should do if an earthquake does strike: