By RORYE O’CONNOR
MT. VERNON — —
Geologists say the Southern Illinois region, home to two major fault zones, is overdue for a major earthquake.
“We need to be paying attention,” said Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Steve Lueker. “They’re saying within the next 50 years we’re going to have one of substantial size.”
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is encouraging Illinoisans to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake on Thursday with the Great Central U.S. Shakeout, the “largest earthquake drill in the history of the Midwest.”
The drill, taking place across nine midwestern states, will be held at 10:15 a.m. Thursday. Participants are encouraged to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” as if an earthquake were occurring, for at least 60 seconds.
The earthquake drill routine begins with dropping to the ground, then taking cover under a sturdy desk or table, and holding on to the furniture until the earthquake stops. If a desk or table is not nearby, drillers should cover their face and arms with their hands and crouch in an inside corner of the building, according to shakeout.org/centralus.
Illinois sits above two major fault zones, the New Madrid Seismic Zone and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, according to information from IEMA.
“The most powerful series of earthquakes ever to hit the United States happened in 1811-12 near New Madrid, Mo.,” information states. “In a 2008 study conducted by the University of Illinois Mid-America Earthquake Center, it was projected that if a similar quake struck the same region today, there would be 3,500 fatalities, 2.6 million people without electricity and $300 billion in direct economic losses. Bridges, docks, highways and water infrastructure would be in shambles.”
IEMA Director Jonathan Monken said though the drill only takes a few minutes, the lessons learned from it can save countless lives.
Lueker said the challenge during a real earthquake may be to keep calm amidst the shaking. However, he said it’s important to prepare for emergencies like earthquakes.
“Whether you’re going to take a look at as an individual, family or business, it needs to done,” he said.
He encouraged individuals and families to have an emergency kit with food and water for all family members and pets for three days.
However, he said with a widespread event like a major earthquake, three days may be the bare minimum for mutual aid agencies or federal aid agencies to reach affected individuals.
“When it’s something like an earthquake, it’s going to hit the region,” he said. “It happened not only in Mt. Vernon, but DuQuoin, Carbondale, Marion, it’s going to be a regional thing. Your neighbors who are normally able to assist you aren’t going to be there, they’re going to be taking care of their own problems.
“State and federal agencies might find it difficult to get into the area because of the state transportation is in. There might be airports that are in such bad shape you can’t land an aircraft. It’s going to be big, not localized.”
To register for the Great Central U.S. Shakeout, visit www.shakeout.org/centralus.