Pushing preparedness during Earthquake Awareness Month

The State Emergency Management Agency declares February Earthquake Awareness Month with an emphasis on preparedness. (MGN Online:Riley Fannon)

Drop, cover and hold on. Those five words could save your life.

According to federal, state and local emergency management experts those actions are the best way to survive an earthquake.

Southeast Missouri is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a 150-mile-long area that experiences more than 200 earthquakes each year.

Those quakes, of magnitude 1-2, are too small to be felt, but they show just how active the area is.

February is Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri and the State Emergency Management Agency wants to make sure we’re prepared.

First of all with preparedness, the thing to know is the most likely way that you’re going to get injured is debris.

According to Earthquake Program Manager Jeff Briggs, the hazards from falling debris are a big reason a former safety tip is no longer pushed by the agency.

A former practice of earthquake safety was to find a way to place yourself in a doorway when the shaking starts. However, research states that in developed countries seeking shelter in a doorway would still not protect you from debris hazard.

Instead of hiding in your doorway, drop, cover and hold on is your best plan of action.

What you want to do is drop to the ground before the shaking knocks you over. Then anything you can do to cover yourself, if there is a desk or a sturdy table nearby, get under it, protect yourself once again from that falling debris.

With the zone located hundreds of miles from the Heartland it would take a catastrophic earthquake for the effects to be fully seen here. The odds of one of catastrophic size happening, according to experts, is higher than some would guess.

For the chance of a very large earthquake that is over a magnitude 7, the chance is seven to ten percent. And that’s just their best estimates based on the history and studies they’ve done. But I think it does show that the risk there is significant enough that we need to be aware of it and be prepared for it.

However, while our area would be spared the worst damage, Heartland residents could still plan an important role after the event.

You may have people that are first responders and other emergency service people in your area that we can contact to come help out and help the people that are in the high impact area.

Like Briggs said, being prepared is the best way to survive an earthquake. There are only so many actions you can take once the shaking starts, but countless more you can do prior to an event.

According to the state emergency management agency, most homeowner insurance does not include earthquake coverage; it must be purchased separately.

The agency also recommends understanding how to turn off your gas and water, in case of an earthquake in tense shaking can cause broken gas pipes and water mains that would create more hazards for rescuers.

Having an emergency kit ready in your house is another great tool the agency says.

Along with those tips the agency also recommends:

• Bolt bookcases to wall studs, install strong latches on cupboards and strap water heaters to wall studs – tipping could start a fire or gas leak, leading to possible loss of water source.

• Develop a family communication plan. Identify a relative living at least 100 miles away; everyone can call to “check in” to tell family you’re safe.

Any parents who have concerns about their child’s safety while at school during an earthquake should know that every year schools, businesses and individuals across the state and country participate in what’s known as the Great Central U.S. Shakeout.

This event is a region wide earthquake drill that focuses on the “drop, cover and hold on” technique.

Held during the third week of October, this event is done to not just prepare students but to educate them on safe preparedness practices as well.

You can find more on the Great Central U.S. Shakeout by clicking here.

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