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Central U.S. Earthquake Awareness Month: Understanding the Importance of Preparedness

2/3/2023 (Permalink)

Image of states in the Central U.S. that are impacted by the New Madrid Seismic Zone February is Central U.S. Earthquake Awareness Month - CUSEC

Unlike weather events, earthquakes strike without warning, sometimes leaving devastation and anguish behind. In the U.S., earthquakes typically occur along the West Coast. However, there is potential for earthquakes in all states, with the Central U.S. having the greatest risk. To raise awareness about the importance of preparedness for earthquakes, and remind citizens and communities of their risk, the Central United States Consortium (CUSEC) has designated the month of February as Central U.S. Earthquake Awareness Month. February is also the anniversary of the last of the earthquakes that struck the central U.S. in the winter of 1811 - 1812, which caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards and created Reelfoot Lake State Park

The CUSEC is a partnership of state and federal agencies, universities, and other organizations working together to reduce the impact of earthquakes in the central United States. Through this partnership, CUSEC provides resources and information to help communities prepare for and respond to earthquakes. 

Earthquakes frequently occur here in Tennessee because the Volunteer State lies two seismic zones, or areas prone to earthquakes - the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), in the western part of the state, and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone. About 2,000 earthquakes occur in the central U.S. every year, many of which go unnoticed. "Many Tennesseans are surprised to know that earthquakes are a hazard in Tennessee," stated Patrick Sheehan, the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). "Earthquake awareness month is an opportunity for individuals, businesses, and organizations to plan for the unexpected. We don't know when the next earthquakes will happen, but we can prepare and learn how to protect yourself, your family, your business, and your community before the ground starts shaking. I urge all Tennesseans to take meaningful action and prioritize earthquake preparedness." 

Earthquakes can cause widespread damage, power outages, and road closures, making it difficult to access essential services such as food, water, and medical care. In the event of a large earthquake, response and recovery efforts can take days, weeks, or even months. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, and by acting today, you can reduce your vulnerability to earthquakes that may happen in the future. 

Precautionary measures to take before an earthquake strikes.

Following earthquake safety precautions could mean the difference between your physical safety and injury, and between property damage and devastating financial loss. With a safety plan in place, proper supplies, and securing your home against hazards, you can increase your chances of riding through a major earthquake safely.

Prepare for an Earthquake:

The steps you take before an earthquake may have the biggest impact on your safety and the protection of your personal property. Top earthquake safety precautions include:

  • Secure items that could topple or fall over during an earthquake, such as water heaters, televisions, book shelves, breakable objects on shelves, and pictures and mirrors on walls.
  • Create an emergency kit for you, your family, and pets with enough supplies to last everyone at least 3 days.
  • Have an out-of-state contact in your emergency plan, and plan where to meet if your family is separated.
  • Consider an earthquake insurance policy since standard homeowners insurance does not cover earthquake damage.
  • Consider retro-fitting your home, building, or other structure to make it less vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake.
  • Download the ReadyTN app to receive important emergency and weather alerts.

During an Earthquake:

You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake before strong shaking knocks you down or drops something on you. During the next big earthquake, and immediately after, is when your level of preparedness will make a difference in how you and others survive and can respond to emergencies. Practicing helps you be ready to respond.

  •  Drop, Cover, and Hold On to protect yourself during an earthquake. Drop to your hands and knees.  Cover your head and neck with your arms. Hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.
  • If in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
  • If inside, stay there until the shaking stops.  DO NOT run outside.
  • If in a vehicle, stop in a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses, or utility wires.
  • If you are in a high-rise, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do no use elevators.
  • If near slopes, cliffs, or mountains, be alert for falling rocks and landslides.

After and Earthquake:

After the immediate threat of the earthquake has passed, your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow. Remember many injuries occur after an earthquake. Aftershocks—following large quakes—can cause damage in their own right.

  • Expect aftershocks to follow the largest shock of the earthquake.
  • Check yourself for injuries and provide assistance others if you have training.
  • If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from it.
  • Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • If you are trapped, cover your mouth.  Send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Save phone calls for emergencies.
  • Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris.
  • Do not remove heavy debris by yourself.  Call SERVPRO to start the cleanup of damage done to your home or business

 While earthquakes are not a common occurrence in Tennessee, it is important to be prepared and stay safe in the event of an earthquake. Central U.S. Earthquake Awareness Month is an important opportunity to educate ourselves about the potential dangers of earthquakes and how to prepare and stay safe during an earthquake. By following these tips, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones during an earthquake. Remember, it is always better to be prepared and stay safe than to be caught off guard in an emergency situation.

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