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A 7.0 earthquake in the Midwest? Planning for the "maximum-of-maximums"

Posted by: Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator, Protection and National Preparedness

It’s the stuff legends are made of.  On this day 199 years ago, the first in a series of catastrophic earthquakes rocked the Midwest along the New Madrid seismic zone.  Although the epicenter of the December 16th quake was in northeast Arkansas, the magnitude of the quake reportedly caused church bells to ring along the East coast.

As the graphic above shows, an major earthquake in the New Madrid zone (of magnitude 6.0 or more) would severely affect Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.  Several other states would be affected, ranging from Minnesota to Florida.

It’s hard to imagine a natural disaster on that scale today. For this reason, FEMA is leading a national-level exercise in May of 2011 (NLE 2011) simulating a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.  We’re bringing all the relevant team members to the table to make the exercise as realistic as possible – federal/state/local governments, the private sector, non-profit and faith-based groups, the public, and even the international community.  FEMA leaders will provide more details on NLE 2011 as it approaches, so watch the blog for more details.

(For the emergency management types, check out an overview of Illinois’s planning for NLE 2011.)

If the 199th anniversary of New Madrid serves a purpose today, it’s that individuals and communities need to plan for what we call a “maximum of maximums” event -- a large-scale, catastrophic event.  It may be gloomy to think about, but it’s necessary to plan for the unexpected, so whether you live along the New Madrid fault line or in the Pacific Northwest, take a few minutes today to be informed about the possible disasters in your community.

We sincerely hope America never has to respond to a major earthquake in the New Madrid zone, but we need to be prepared.  Visit for earthquake preparedness tips and other ways you can get prepared.

We want to use this blog to share ideas and continue the conversation, so leave a comment about how your family / organization / company is preparing for a “maximum of maximums” event.

- Tim

Last Updated: 
07/10/2012 - 16:29


reports over 300 mag 2.2 or greater this year north of Little Rock and a 4.2 a couple weeks ago.

A great way to contribute information about earthquakes you experience is through the USGS "Did You Feel It?" website. The "Did You Feel It" site encourages citizen participation in the scientific understanding and awareness of earthquakes as they happen. Check out the site:<br /><br />//<br /><br />FEMA and the USGS are partners in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program along with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). You can find out more through our website:<br /><br />//<br /><br />And for more about the historic 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes, see:<br /><br />//<br /><br /><br />Gene Longenecker<br />Physical Scientist<br />Earthquake Program Manager<br />FEMA Region IV

We're NOT preparing for a 200-year event. We're dealing with the daily attacks on our 4th Amendment rights by the DHS, which apparently, FEMA reports to. Honestly, it would be nice to be able to devote some time and energy to emergency preparedness, but thanks to our government ("we're here to help") this is WAY down on the list right now.<br /><br />Thanks for helping.

To survival an Earthquake what to do now????

How long will it takes for the Government to send help?<br />a) ASAP (immediately)<br />b) When it is safe to deploy resources (4 to 10 days after the event)

I am with an organization, the North Carolina Ranger Corps, that is devoted to taking the proactive approach to preparedness by educating the public through seminars and workshops. Instead of just hosting seminars where we hope the public shows up, we are also working to go where there is already a gathering. We make the message quick and effective. We also offer more comprehensive seminars that cover an all-hazards approach.

I will police my own family, I will prepare emergency kit, my family and I will slept in the tent at that day, observe the behavior of the animals, dogs, cats and parrots are one of the best animals that can detect seismic activities

I don't want any help

Here in Pennsylvania, I head up an Amateur Radio working group that tests and trains with the Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (NBEMS) digital sound card radio communications software.<br /><br />We transmit detailed messages in ICS message formats and spreadsheet data on HF radio frequencies with the primary goal of reliable communications out to about 500 miles, and on VHF/UHF for local communications up to about 50 miles or more. Our radio operations are completely non-dependent on commercial power and/or telecommunications infrastructure.<br /><br />We're hoping to continue to improve our proficiency and develop working relationships between our communications volunteers and served agencies which we hope will include Federal, State, County and Local government emergency management agencies as well as disaster relief agencies. <br /><br />Perhaps we'll be given the opportunity to work with some of the served agencies in PA during this exercise.<br /><br />-Dave Kleber, KB3FXI<br /> Pittsburgh, PA

This is the amazing post

Kudos to FEMA, other federal agencies and the participating states for addressing the NMSZ at this high profile level. <br /><br />Earthquake preparedness only starts with the government. The involvement of businesses and social services in these exercises is a great move. The planned ShakeOut drill to involve individuals is even better.<br /><br />Keep up the great work!

"Formidable Footprint - Earthquake" should be of interest to anyone concerned about neighborhood/community preparedness/response for an earthquake. It is as national neighborhood online table exercise series. The next 3-hour HSEEP TTX will be Jan. 29 with an overview on Jan. 27. More infor at //


maximum of maximum event sounds pretty insane- is the end coming?

M7 is quite survivable - just look at the 4 September 2010 M7.1 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. There are probably two key factors that resulted in no loss of life in my home town - one pure luck, the other good mitigation. We were so lucky that it occurred at 435am local time. Nearly everyone was in bed and the streets were about as clear as they would ever be. Fortunately, for many many years now, we have recognised our earthquake risk and have a strong building code designed to withstand a considerable amount of ground acceleration caused by an earthquake.<br /><br />So, I'd suggest that the quality of the building code and how it has been designed to factor in earthquakes will probably be a significant factor in determining how heavily a New Madrid earthquake impacts the surrounding regions.<br /><br />If the building code is poor, then you'll have to do a heck of a lot more planning, training and exercising because the impact will be significantly greater, and it will take a lot longer to recover.<br /><br />One aspect of planning I'm interested in, is that of rapid building safety evaluation following an earthquake. In the US, this is done under the ATC-20 guideline. In New Zealand, we have a very similar guideline that is based on ATC-20 but has been refined by the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering. Following our earthquake in September, some colleagues and I were responsible for helping to set up the process for assessing buildings. Whilst this went pretty well, one huge gap is the lack of an information system designed to support the rapid collection and reporting of building damage assessments, and scale to potentially hundreds of thousands of buildings. This is an area that I am very interested in seeing a free and open source software toolset developed to enable the management of building information following an earthquake (and indeed other events).<br /><br />I believe that the collection and management of building assessments, based on our experiences in Christchurch over the past few months, is an area that globally we are not as prepared as we could be, and is an area where we can perhaps collaborate (maybe with the new US+NZ emergency management relationship) to build a free software tool to manage post-disaster building damage assessment.<br /><br />I'm slowly capturing my observations on the building safety evaluation process on my blog. This is a link that provides an overview of my observations and experiences to date. I've still got quite a bit to add, and will be doing this over the Christmas/New Year break.<br /><br />//<br /><br />Cheers Gav

well this 2011 we just had a 4.5 last night in salinas ca. Just had another one about 15 minutes ago it was 4.3 then one right after,Is the BIG ONE COMING?

We felt shaking last month and have this fear if this May 2011 may come positively. We're searching for utmost of preparing and safety.

Selon le Geological Survey des États-Unis, plus de 500 tremblements de terre ont été enregistrés dans le centre de l'Arkansas depuis septembre 2010. Les scientifiques ne connaissent pas précisément les causes de cette activité sismique récente et ils ne cachent pas leurs inquiétudes. Un séisme de magnitude 3,8 a secoué le centre-nord de l'Indiana le 30 décembre dernier et selon les géologues de l'État, c'est un phénomène très irrégulier et extrêmement rare dans ce secteur, qualifiant même cette secousse de "sans précédent". Ce tremblement de terre, ressenti dans certaines parties de l'Ohio, de l'Illinois, du Wisconsin et du Kentycky, aurait été assez fort pour provoquer des fissures dans le sol.<br /><br />Les morts récentes d'oiseaux et de poissons en Arkansas, au Kentucky, en Louisianne, ont-ils un lien avec l'activité sismique sous la faille de New Madrid? Peut-être. Le fait que ces morts subites et étranges se soient manifestées, entre autres, dans le secteur de la faille provoque certains questionnements.

If and when it happens.There would be a lot of casualties in a large city like Memphis.Doesn't matter what kind of buildings they are.

This looks good though, and it will be interesting to see if they actually using this. I know about this topic by this post. This is very nice post! I will bookmark this blog as i have Bus rental service.

(I'm guessing the guy from New Zealand might want to be revising his post now)

Will HARRP be use for this exercise?

Just incase anyone actually wanted to do some research, it's not HARRP, its HAARP. Im not nit picking your spelling, Im just trying to help the people who are actually interrested in whats going on, to find the information easier. :-) Dont dismiss the information as non-sense once you look into it. Becuz the info you find on Haarp may be the info that helps save your life. ~God Bless~

Amazing! I live in TN, and we have always feared the possibility of the New Madrid fault line shifting. They say we are overdue and that it could be catastrophic. I would be interested in seeing the simulation that FEMA is doing coming up shortly. Thanks for the good work FEMA.

After watching the New Orleans post-hurricane event unfold, I decided a long time ago not to wait around for outside help. People, be smart. Get at least two weeks of food and water stored. If you can and have the space, put away three months. Store candles or rechargeable flashlights/torches/lanterns (you might want to avoid kerosene lanterns or propane in an EQ zone). Have a first-aid/med kit and try to stock what prescription meds you can. It's not just about EQs -- you could face windstorms, blizzards, power outages, or any number of events that would cut off your access to grocery and drug stores and water. It will happen. Make plans accordingly.

USA, a once strong & proud Country, now flat broke and flaccid, persuaded & bombarded by globalist sponsored media outlets to live in fear... Fear of unknowns and knowns.... and known unknowns.<br /><br /> It's all become rather sad dontcha think?

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