February is designated as Earthquake Awareness Month in the United States and many places worldwide, and this year is no exception. The purpose of this month is to raise public awareness about the potential dangers of earthquakes and to encourage individuals and communities to take steps to prepare for these natural disasters.
As earthquakes continue to occur daily in the central U.S.—with nearly 2,000 small tremors per year— the Center United States Earthquake Consortium and emergency management officials in member States remind citizens and communities about the earthquake risk by designating February as Earthquake Awareness Month. During February and into March, CUSEC and our states will be involved with several events intended to educate the public, private sector, first responders, and government officials.
Drop, Cover, and Hold On! is the best way to keep safe from earthquakes. The phrase reminds people to:
- Drop down to the floor
- Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or other furniture
- Hold on to that object until the shaking ends.
If you use a cane:
- Sit on a chair, bed, etc., and cover your head and neck with both hands.
- Keep your cane near so it can be used when the shaking stops.
If you use a walker or wheelchair:
- Lock your wheels (if applicable).
- If using a walker, carefully get as low as possible.
- Bend over and cover your head and neck with your arms, a book, or a pillow. Then Hold On until the shaking stops.
Earthquakes can occur anytime and without warning, causing widespread damage and destruction. Recently, major earthquakes have struck various parts of the world, causing widespread loss of life, injury, and property damage. In light of this, individuals and communities must be prepared to respond and recover from such events.
Also, February 7 is the anniversary of the last of the earthquakes that struck the central U.S. in the winter of 1811-12.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this sequence of three massive earthquakes is usually called the New Madrid earthquakes, after the Missouri town, the largest settlement on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and Natchez, Mississippi. Based on the large area of damage (600,000 square kilometers), the general area of perceptibility (5,000,000 square kilometers), and the complex physiographic changes that occurred, the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rank as some of the largest in the United States.
One way to prepare for earthquakes is to have an emergency plan. This should include a designated meeting place, an evacuation plan, and a plan for communication with loved ones. It is also important to have emergency supplies, such as food, water, and medical supplies, as well as a working knowledge of first aid and disaster response.
Another essential aspect of earthquake preparedness is retrofitting homes and buildings to make them more resistant to seismic activity. This can include reinforcing foundation and structural components and installing seismic hazard mitigation systems. In addition, it is vital to be familiar with the different types of earthquakes and their potential impacts, as well as the various warning signs that precede an earthquake.
In addition to individual and community preparedness, many government and non-government organizations are working to increase public awareness and education about earthquakes. These organizations provide educational resources, training programs, and tools and resources for earthquake preparedness and response.
One of the key messages of Earthquake Awareness Month is that everyone can play a role in reducing the impact of earthquakes. By preparing and educating ourselves and our communities, we can help reduce the potential for loss of life, injury, and property damage.
Another primary consideration is earthquake insurance. Standard homeowners insurance policies generally do not cover damage due to earthquakes, but consumers can purchase earthquake coverage as an endorsement to their existing homeowner’s policy. Like other types of insurance, costs for coverage will vary depending on the home’s structure, age, location, and the possible risk of an earthquake occurring in the area.
Homeowners should discuss more with their insurance agents about adding earthquake insurance.
Last year, the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut registered over 2.1 million participants. Anyone interested in practicing earthquake safety can join the Central U.S. earthquake preparedness effort on October 19, 2023, at 10:19 a.m. (CDT) for the Great ShakeOut Drill. Learn more about the Great ShakeOut Drill and register your participation at https://www.shakeout.org/centralus/.