SPRINGFIELD – Several small earthquakes, including a 5.4 magnitude temblor in southeastern Illinois in 2008, have rattled the state in recent years but fortunately caused little damage. However, with two seismic zones located in southern Illinois, it’s important for people throughout Illinois to know what to do if a major earthquake occurs.
That’s why the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging groups and individuals to plan now to participate in “The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut” at 10:15 a.m. on April 28, 2011. More than one million people in the eight-state New Madrid Seismic Zone region are expected to practice “Drop, Cover and Hold” during the ShakeOut drill.
“One of the most powerful earthquakes in the continental U.S. occurred along the New Madrid Seismic Zone nearly 200 years ago,” said IEMA Interim Director Joe Klinger. “We know there’s a definite risk of another catastrophic earthquake. This drill will be a great way to increase public awareness of the risk in Illinois and help people better prepare for earthquakes.”
Klinger said schools, businesses, government agencies, families and others are encouraged to register to participate in the drill at http://www.shakeout.org/centralus. Registered participants will receive additional information about the drill and earthquake preparedness. IEMA was among the first Illinois organizations to register to participate in the drill.
“Drop, Cover and Hold” refers to the protective actions people should take when an earthquake begins: “Drop” down to the floor, take “Cover” under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture, and “Hold” onto the furniture item and be prepared to move with it until the shaking ends.
Illinois is at risk from two major seismic zones, the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone and the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The Wabash Valley Zone is located between southeastern Illinois and southwestern Indiana. The New Madrid Seismic Zone is located in the Central Mississippi River Valley and includes portions of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
“The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut” drill is being organized by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), which includes members from the eight states impacted by the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Other partners include state and local emergency management agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Citizen Corps, U.S. Geological Survey, the American Red Cross and other public and private entities.
In the winter of 1811-12, a series of large earthquakes occurred along the fault system buried deep within the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Based on newspaper and eyewitness accounts, scientists estimate the magnitudes at between 7.8 and 8.1.
While the immediate area near the epicenter was sparsely populated at the time, most existing building infrastructure was destroyed and much of the area was flooded. In addition to the main shocks, there were more than a thousand aftershocks. The earthquakes were felt throughout the eastern U.S. and into Canada.
Additional information about the earthquake risk in Illinois and steps to take before, during and after an earthquake is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.