Sunday, September 04, 2005

BE PREPARED - it is your responsibility

Midwestern websites that offer information for surviving an emergency are listed near the end of this post. But first this:

Bookworm urges us all to take the New Orleans disaster as a warning to be prepared. It can happen to you! So, here in the middle of the U.S.--in addition to flooding for those along the Mississippi or act of terorism-- the biggest disaster would likely be an earthquake along the New Madrid fault. I haven't heard anyone speak of this lately. Except my husband the geological and civil engineer who finds such things fascinating.

The reality is that [and this is lengthy, so scan it for the facts) "the New Madrid Fault System extends 120 miles southward from the area of Charleston, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois, through New Madrid and Caruthersville, following Interstate 55 to Blytheville and on down to Marked Tree, Arkansas. It crosses five state lines and cuts across the Mississippi River in three places and the Ohio River in two places.
The fault is active, averaging more than 200 measured events per year (1.0 or more on the Richter scale), about 20 per month. Tremors large enough to be felt (2.5 – 3.0 on the Richter scale) are noted annually. Every 18 months the fault releases a shock of 4.0 or more, capable of local minor damage. Magnitudes of 5.0 or greater occurring about once per decade can do significant damage and be felt in several states.
The highest earthquake risk in the mainland United States outside the West Coast is along the New Madrid Fault. Damaging tremors are not as frequent as in California, but when they do occur, the destruction covers over more than 20 times the area because of underlying geology.
A damaging earthquake in this Area, 6.0, reoccurs about every 80 years (the last one in 1895). In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released new earthquake probabilities for the New Madrid Seismic Zone. For a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake, there now is estimated to be a 25-40% chance in the next 50 years. The results would be serious damage to schools and masonry buildings from Memphis to St. Louis. USGS also estimates a 7% - 10% chance of a 7.5 – 8.0 earthquake in the next 50 years (equal to the earthquake events of 1811-1812).
A major earthquake in this area - the Great New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-12 was actually a series of over 2000 shocks in five months, some of 7.6 intensity and five of which were 8.0 or more in magnitude. Eighteen of these rang church bells on the Eastern seaboard. The very land itself was destroyed in the Missouri Bootheel, making it unfit even for farming for many years. It was the largest burst of seismic energy east of the Rocky Mountains in the history of the U.S. and was several times larger than the San Francisco quake of 1905.
When will another Great Earthquake happen the size of those in 1811-12? Several lines of research suggest that the catastrophic upheavals like those in 1811-12 visit the New Madrid region every 500-600 years. Hence, emergency planners, engineers, and seismologists do not expect a repeat of the intensity of the 1811-12 series for at least 100 years or more. However, even though the chance is remote, experts estimate the chances for a repeat earthquake of similar magnitude to the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes have changed from the 1985 estimates of 2.7 – 4.0% probability in 50 years to a 7 - 10% probability. This is a result of new evidence of shorter recurrence intervals identified from pre-historical events. Earthquake probabilities for known active faults always increase with time, because stresses within the earth slowly and inexorably mount, year by year, until the rocks can take no more, and sudden rupture becomes inevitable.
Our Greatest Concerns are the 6.0-7.6 Sized Events, which do have significant probabilities in the near future. Damaging earthquakes of this magnitude are very likely within the lifetimes of our children."

I know of very few families who are prepared for this or any other emergency. Actually, I only know of one family--they prepared for 1999 Dec. 31 dooms day disaster. BUT they are prepared.

Here are places to go for information on how to prepare:
St. Louis City EMA

St. Louis Red Cross

Missouri Dept of Emergency Response

Centers for Disease Control

Community Emergency Management

State of MO Emergency Management

Those sites offer planning guidelines for disaster preparedness. The first step, for every family, is take repsonsibility for your own safety and that of those around you. Don't count on the U.S. Calvary to come and rescue you--at least not for the first five days. More importantly, make sure your state and local governments HAVE a plan for evacuation and that you know what the plan will ask you to do. If they don't have a plan, be the pesky activist who bugs them until they do.

Though I have not read Tom Brown's Guide to City and Suburban Survival, it is on my reading list, and can be purchased here.

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