CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the creation of the Illinois Seismic Safety Task Force (SSTF) to enhance earthquake mitigation measures in the state so homeowners and business-owners have the protections they need if a damaging earthquake strikes, and buildings and other infrastructure are prepared to withstand seismic activity. The Seismic Safety Task Force will assess the adequacy of existing earthquake mitigation strategies, particularly of those in high-risk areas along fault lines in the southern portion of the state. The task force will provide the Governor with formal recommendations to further enhanced preparedness.
“Illinois was hit with a surprise earthquake a few weeks ago in which, thankfully, no one was hurt and damage was minimal. We were well prepared to respond to this incident, but there is more we can do now to limit damage from future earthquakes,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I am creating the Seismic Safety Task Force to boost our preparations before an earthquake hits and to make sure Illinoisans aren’t struggling with liability issues afterwards.”
On April 18 at 4:37 a.m., a 5.2 magnitude earthquake was reported in Wabash County in southeastern Illinois, with shaking felt throughout Illinois. The state experienced 29 aftershocks measuring as high as magnitude 4.6. Damage from the incident was mostly minor.
The SSTF, which will be co-chaired by Michael McRaith, Director of the Illinois Division of Insurance, and Andrew Velasquez III, Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, will find better ways to monitor seismic events and to limit the damage that results from an earthquake. The taskforce will identify ways to enhance protections for home- and business-owners who need earthquake insurance and determine the best way to make all forms of building structures stronger and more durable. It will be charged with establishing high-risk zones to further secure roads, bridges and buildings, including critical infrastructures such as hospitals, fire stations, police departments, schools and highway bridges. The SSTF will also work with local and national authorities who have implemented effective best-practices. The SSTF will meet for the first time in June 2008.
The SSTF will also work to:
· Review relevant public, commercial and residential building codes and the performance of non-structural components, particularly in high earthquake risk zones;
· Assess and provide guidance on consumer education on earthquake insurance for public, commercial and residential properties, particularly in high risk earthquake zones;
· Consider the creation of Illinois Earthquake Risk Zones and an Illinois Seismic Research Network to determine how Illinois seismic monitoring can be enhanced, if necessary;
· Explore public-private partnerships to heighten individual and business awareness of earthquake risk and related mitigation practices
· Provide recommendations to the Governor for enhanced preparedness.
“Recent events illustrate the unpredictable force of an earthquake to which so much of Illinois is vulnerable. We look forward to working with leaders from around the State so that the people of Illinois have the insurance and financial security to protect their families, homes and businesses,” said Michael McRaith, Director, Division of Insurance, IDFPR.
Since earthquakes are rare in the Midwest, most home and business-owners have historically declined to purchase earthquake insurance, which is offered as separate coverage at additional costs. If a homeowner does not have earthquake insurance, damage caused by the earthquake may not be covered. Current Illinois law does require notice to homeowner insurance applicants in high risk zones of the availability of earthquake insurance. SSTF will determine if the state earthquake insurance market adequately covers public, commercial, and private-residential property owners.
“Last month’s earthquake was a wake-up call that earthquakes are a very real risk in Illinois and we need to be prepared,” said Dir. Velasquez. “While the state maintains a constant readiness to respond to any type of emergency, including earthquakes, it’s important to ensure that people in high-risk areas are also prepared for the unexpected. I look forward to working with task force members to address these issues.”
In addition to the Division of Insurance and IEMA, the task force will comprise of members from public, private and academic fields, specifically the Capital Development Board, ComEd, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois Red Cross, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois Insurance Association, Illinois Municipal League, Office of the State Fire Marshall (OSFM), Southern Illinois University (SIU) Department of Geology, Thornton Tomasetti, Underwriters Laboratories, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Department of Geology, and members of the Illinois General Assembly.
“Thousands of Illinois families were caught off guard by the recent earthquake that struck Illinois. I am delighted to be part of this task force, a coalition that will address the truly devastating affects of earthquakes, especially downstate and in other high-risk areas. We will work together to find effective ways to limit the damage and help create awareness among communities statewide,” said Rep. Brandon Phelps, (D-Harrisburg).