It's time once again for Crawford Countians to think about what they would do in case of an earthquake.
Area residents, local governments, non-profits and others are being urged to participate in the Great Central U.S. Shakeout Drill Feb. 7.
Individuals, local governments, non-profits, emergency responders and others are being urged to register for the drill at www.shakeout.org/centralus. Area organizations already registered for this year's event include Lincoln Trail College and New Hebron Christian School. The past two years, Crawford County Health Department has organized local drills.
"In disaster situations, a hospital is a crucial part of recovery efforts," said CMH Safety Officer Jed Holt. "It is critical that not only do we develop specific plans for emergency situations, but that we regularly practice executing those plans. When catastrophe strikes, we must be ready."
The Crawford County Health Department is participating in the drill again this year. Director of Environmental Health and Emergency Preparedness Donna Milam said the department will conduct a small exercise with its volunteers and medical reserve corps to train them for dealing with the aftermath of a quake. If a major quake hits the county, the volunteers will need to be able set up a shelter, distribute clean water and food and help with providing tetanus shots.
The department will also conduct an earthquake drill. Patients at the CCHD office that morning will be invited to join employees in taking cover.
Locally, the drill will specifically focus on how staff reacts during an earthquake and what actions they take to ensure both patients and staff are protected. Region-wide, the goal of the event is for people, organizations and communities to become prepared, practice how to be safe and identify plans that need to be improved.
The Great Central US ShakeOut is patterned after a similar event, the Great California ShakeOut. More than one million people across nine states are expected to participate in drills as part of the event.
Organizers say it is important to do a "drop, cover and hold on" drill because, in the event of an actual quake, area residents may only have seconds to protect themselves before strong shaking knocks them down, or drops something on them.
Officials say the area is at risk from both the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone and the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The Wabash Valley zone covers southeastern Illinois and southwestern Indiana. The NMSZ, from which the Wabash Valley zone branches, is in the Central Mississippi Valley and includes portions of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The Feb. 7 date coincides with the 200th anniversary of a massive earthquake near New Madrid, Mo., the last and largest of a series of earthquakes that had started Dec. 16. The quakes caused the formation of Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and changed the course of Midwestern rivers. Some of the shocks were felt as far away as the East Coast and aftershocks continued until 1817.
During any 50-year period, there is a 25 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in this seismic zone. Since 1974, the year network monitoring of seismic activity began, more than 3,000 quakes have been recorded in the NMSZ. None exceeded a magnitude of 5.0, and most occurred without our noticing, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The largest earthquake in recent years occurred on the Wabash Valley zone April 18, 2008. It registered a magnitude of 5.4 and its epicenter was near Mt. Carmel. It caused damage in Lawrence County and rattled windows and set pictures swinging on walls in Crawford County. It was followed by several aftershocks during the next two weeks.
On April 24, 2010, a "micro-earthquake" registering 2.5 on the Richter scale struck at 4:05 a.m. The origin of the quake was in Knox County, Ind., about a mile north-northeast of Mount Carmel and five miles underground. Rumblings were felt as far as Demotte, Ind., about 230 miles from the quake's epicenter.
A minor quake was recorded Nov. 29, 2007, in Crawford County, but apparently did no damage. The 2.5 magnitude quake's epicenter was about three miles south of Hutsonville, five miles north west of Palestine and five miles west of Merom, Ind.
In June 2002, a moderate earthquake centered about nine miles northwest of Evansville - near Darmstadt, Ind. - lasted for about 10 seconds and registered a magnitude of 5.0. Six months before that, a tremor occurred in Palestine that registered at a 1.3 to 1.8. In February 1994, a minor earthquake in southern Illinois registered 4.2. Centered about 15 miles south-southwest of Marion, it was apparently not felt in Crawford County.
The largest historical earthquake in the region - magnitude 5.4 - caused damage in southern Illinois and west-central Indiana in 1968.
The closest seismic monitoring stations are in southern Jasper County, southern Sullivan County, Ind., and near Rosedale, in Parke County, Ind.
For more information on ShakeOut activities, or to register your business, school or organization to participate, visit the Illinois Emergency Management Agency earthquake page at www.state.il.us/iema/disaster/eQuakeMain.htm. Information is also available at www.shakeout.org/centralus or www.dropcoverholdon.org.