Nature’s Lesson in Disaster Preparedness

Last Friday, a 5.2 magnitude earthquake shook the Midwest. The event was centered about six miles from the town of West Salem. The cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, Evansville, Des Moines – even Atlanta – about 400 miles away, all felt the shock. At least 22 wall-shaking aftershocks were recorded, some ranging as high as 4.0 magnitude The quake caused many in the area to start searching for their first-aid-kits and emergency survival kits from the post-911 days, or even Y2K. And there it was; one of the most exciting events of my life; and I slept right though it!

While not usually thought of as Midwestern events, earthquakes are really not new to the area. The most recent seismic event in the area occurred in 2002 when a 5.0 quake struck. Another hit the area with a 5.4 quake in 1968. But the granddaddy of them all were the quakes of 1811 and 1812 which reached estimated levels of 8 on the Richter scale. That’s enough to cause really major damage to buildings, bridges, roads and other structures, disrupt communications and isolate whole areas.

The culprit Friday was the Wabash fault, a northern extension of the New Madrid fault (pronounced MAD-rid). The New Madrid fault is the greatest earthquake risk east of the Rocky Mountains. Earthquakes there occur much less frequently than in California but due to the geology of the area, can be far more devastating. The New Madrid seismic zone is actually a series of faults under the continental crust known as the Reelfoot Rift. It runs through five states and crosses the Mississippi River in at least three places.

The problem with the area is that no one really thinks much about it being an earthquake zone and so few people do anything about preparing for such an event. Keep in mind that an earthquake is a “no-prior-notice” kind of happening. An earthquake can totally isolate your area – cut you off from electricity, friends and neighbors, and your usual sources of food and water. At a time like this, earthquake-preparedness-kits, survival-kits and first-aid-kits can make a big difference in helping you and your family to survive.