Southeast Missouri is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), which generated some of the most powerful earthquakes ever to jolt the nation.
A series of major quakes occurred in 1811-12, collapsing buildings, ringing church bells hundreds of miles away, and briefly causing the Mississippi River to run backward. That area is still active today, averaging more than 200 earthquakes each year.
As a reminder, Missouri observes Earthquake Awareness Month each February to emphasize the realistic possibility of a catastrophic earthquake occurring in the NMSZ. While no one can predict exactly when an earthquake will occur, scientists agree that large earthquakes in this zone still pose a risk.
“Powerful earthquakes like those that occurred 200 years ago right here in Missouri, caused damage and could be felt for hundreds of miles across the state,” said Ernie Rhodes, director of Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency. “Our priority is keep everyone prepared, educated and safe. Earthquake Awareness Month is an ideal time to continue that focus on protecting your family.”
When shaking starts, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” Drop to your knees, cover your head and get under a desk or table, and hold on until the shaking stops. Studies show that in developed countries with modern structures, falling debris is the most common source of injuries.
Being prepared before an earthquake is also a key component to staying safe. Here are a few simple steps:
- 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.
- Have an emergency kit. Include a flashlight, first aid kit, radio, drinking water and blankets. A major earthquake could take out utilities for weeks.
- 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.
- Know how to turn off your gas and water.
- Find out if your house is covered for earthquake damage. Most homeowner insurance does not include earthquake coverage; it must be purchased separately.