If you live in Southern Illinois, you probably know the area falls within the earthquake-prone New Madrid Seismic Zone. But have you taken steps to ensure you and your family stay safe when the earth unexpectedly quakes beneath you?
Herb Simmons, director of St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, told the BND he worries about the aftermath of an earthquake.
“We want to focus on New Madrid, that’s a serious thing I worry about more than anything. There would be calls for help from everywhere,” he said.
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This zone is the most active seismic area in the country east of the Rocky Mountains, according to officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Below, find everything you can do before, during and after an earthquake to maximize your safety and minimize damage.
Prior to an earthquake
When earthquake-proofing a home prior to an incident, the Federal Emergency Management Agency notes that the items inside a home can be far more dangerous than the home itself.
“Any unsecured objects that can move, break, or fall as an earthquake shakes your home are potential safety hazards and potential property losses.”
The agency suggests people secure heavy furniture throughout their home with flexible fasteners like nylon straps or with closed hooks. If that cannot be done, make sure to arrange the larger pieces of furniture away from beds and seating.
Homeowners should also have plumbers install flexible connectors on all gas appliances. Those connectors are less likely to break, causing a gas leak, during an earthquake.
Another way to be increase safety during an earthquake is to practice drills with everyone in the household.
“Through practice, you can condition yourselves to react spontaneously and safely when the first jolt or shaking is felt,” FEMA officials wrote.
People are also advised to make an emergency supply kit.
Simmons said he and several other county employees keep an emergency bag on hand with enough supplies to last for 72 hours.
The EMA director’s emergency bag includes gloves, twine, water, food, a hand-cranked radio and a water filter. But he noted Tuesday that it’s up to each person to determine what they would need — including things like medication — in an emergency situation.
Other actions people can take before an earthquake include making an emergency contact list, learning CPR, knowing how to shut off a home’s utilities, locating a place that could temporarily shelter a pet and making sure all family members know how to call 911.
During an earthquake
Even if you’ve taken all the steps in preparing, an earthquake may still send you into a state of shock and surprise.
FEMA noted that when an earthquake hits your best chance of avoiding injury is to react quickly and safely.
The first thing people should do when the earth begins to quake is drop to their knees so they are not knocked down, according to the Ready Campaign, a public service effort launched in February 2003 by the Department of Homeland Security.
The campaign calls this “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!”
It’s important people cover themselves — especially their head — from falling debris. Ready officials suggest getting under a table or using your arms to cover your head and neck.
“People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices should lock their wheels, bend over, and remain seated until the shaking stops. Protect your head and neck with your arms, a pillow, a book, or whatever is available.”
The Ready Campaign also advises people to stay in bed if that’s where they are when the earthquake hits. And if you’re driving, pull over and stop somewhere where nothing has the potential to fall on you.
“Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning, although they usually last less than one minute. Aftershocks following the initial earthquake may occur for hours, days, or even months.”
After an earthquake
So you survived the earthquake, now what?
The Ready Campaign advises people who are trapped to stay where they are and call for help with a cell phone or tap on a pipe or wall, so people can determine your location.
If you aren’t trapped, check local media for advisories, help those injured and use caution when cleaning up.
And Ready campaign officials warn:
“Be prepared to ‘Drop, Cover and Hold On’ in the likely event of aftershocks.”