SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is susceptible to several types of natural hazards, including floods, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, droughts, even earthquakes. While it’s impossible to avoid such events, there are several steps communities and people can take to prevent injuries or deaths and reduce property losses.
Throughout January, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) will offer tips for protecting homes and businesses and highlight successful hazard mitigation efforts as part of its 2013 Preparedness Campaign.
“Try as we might, we’ll never be able to avoid the wrath of Mother Nature,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “But there are many ways we can limit the impact of these weather events, ranging from inexpensive, do-it-yourself home projects to community-wide efforts.”
Knowing the natural hazards in your area is the first step toward reducing your risk. One hazard affecting much of Illinois, particularly the southern half of the state, is earthquakes. While many people think the U.S. earthquake risk is primarily on the West Coast, a catastrophic earthquake is possible in the Central U.S.
In fact, during the winter of 1811-1812, a series of earthquakes centered near New Madrid, Missouri, rocked the Central U.S. and was felt as far away as the East Coast. The New Madrid Seismic Zone stretches from along the Mississippi River valley from Southern Illinois to Mississippi. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, located in Southeastern Illinois, also poses an earthquake risk for the state.
IEMA is encouraging people to register for the third annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, a multi-state earthquake drill that will take place at 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 7. The date for the 2013 ShakeOut drill coincides with the 201st anniversary of the Feb. 7, 1812, earthquake near New Madrid, Missouri, the last of that series of major earthquakes.
To date, more than 130,000 Illinois participants are registered for the drill. Last year, more than 2.4 million people in nine states participated in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, including nearly 500,000 in Illinois.
While the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” drill only takes a few minutes, Monken said participants can also learn about ways to reduce the earthquake hazards in their homes and work places.
To register for the drill, visit www.shakeout.org/centralus.
Tips for making your home more earthquake resistant include:
• Hot water heaters – Install a strap or bracing kit to your hot water heater, securing it to the wall studs. A secure hot water heater can prevent fires and water damage during an earthquake. Have a licensed plumber install flexible gas and water line connector pipes to your water heater. These are safer than rigid pipes during an earthquake.
• TVs, computers and other home electronics – Secure these items with special strapping designed to be earthquake resistance or by using heavy duty “hook and loop” tape. This will help protect valuable equipment as well as make your home safer by preventing injury or death from falling items during an earthquake.
• Furniture and Appliances – Bookcases, armoires, shelving units and refrigerators should be anchored to wall studs to prevent tipping that could cause injury. Tall, top-heaving furniture and appliances should be secured with nylon straps or L-brackets attached to the wall studs.
• Cabinets – Kitchen and bathroom cabinets should have child-safety latches installed to prevent items such as dishware and cleaning supplies from spilling out during an earthquake.
IEMA developed an interactive Home Hazard Hunt that allows people to locate earthquake hazards in a home and learn more about how to reduce the risks. The Home Hazard Hunt and more information about hazard mitigation are available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.
In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering two free webinars on earthquake mitigation. A webinar on Jan. 30 at 1 p.m. (CST) will offer suggestions for reducing the risks of nonstructural earthquake damage. This webinar is aimed at property owners, facility managers, local officials, engineers, architects and small business owners.
The second webinar on Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. (CST) will focus on earthquake safety and mitigation for schools. Links to information about both webinars can be found on the Ready Illinois website (www.Ready.Illinois.gov).