SPRINGFIELD — Governor Pat Quinn on Friday called on every Illinois resident, school and business to participate in what’s being called the “largest earthquake drill in the history of the Midwest” on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 10:15 a.m. The third annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is a nine-state emergency preparedness drill designed to encourage residents to think about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Participants can register for the drill online at www.shakeout.org/centralus, and will receive valuable tips and information about earthquake preparedness. More than 2 million Midwesterners registered for the drill, which highlights Earthquake Preparedness Month in Illinois.
“It only takes a minute to register online in the Great ShakeOut and just seconds to participate in the drill itself, but the lessons are invaluable,” Governor Quinn said. “This drill embraces the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard: ‘Semper Paratus’ or ‘Always Ready.’ I invite everyone to learn what they can do to keep safe.”
Largest quake in U.S. history
Illinois sits atop two major fault zones, the New Madrid Seismic Zone and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. The most powerful series of earthquakes ever to hit the United States happened in 1811-12 near New Madrid, Missouri.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, on Dec. 16, 1811, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck an area which is now the location of Memphis, Tenn. With the growth in population and infrastructure along the NMSZ, another series of quakes similar to the 1811 earthquakes could prove catastrophic to the region.
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.
The New Madrid quakes concluded on Feb. 7, 1812. Last year marked the 200th anniversary of that event, and a NewsTribune report noted some seismologists “are at odds with the common cry that the New Madrid Seismic Zone tends to produce a big earthquake every 200 years.” Seismologists had been keeping a close eye on the fault line and noticed only a little “strain” there, which is not a cause for alarm, according to the report.
Recent Illinois Valley earthquakes
The Illinois Valley area was briefly shaken by a 3.8 magnitude earthquake originating 60 miles northeast of La Salle on Feb. 10, 2010. That quake, which area residents felt for only about 20 seconds, occurred at 4 a.m., according to a NewsTribune report, and did not result in any reported injuries or structural damage.
The same report noted that the strongest quake in Illinois came a 1968 near the city of Dale and had a magnitude of 5.4.
Illinois Valley Community College geology instructor Mike Phillips told the NewsTribune at that time that more than a dozen earthquakes have shaken northern Illinois in the past 100 years.
More recently, a 4.5 magnitude quake with an epicenter near Troy Grove occurred at 1.11 a.m. on June 28, 2004.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is heading up preparedness efforts in Illinois.
“The ShakeOut drill raises awareness about the threat of earthquakes in Illinois,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “The drill only takes a few minutes, but the lessons learned can save countless lives.”
Monken noted that on the IEMA website, www.ready.illinois.gov, residents are offered tips for emergency planning, such as knowing escape routes and family reunification plans, building an earthquake kit and caring for pets. The site provides tips on how to act during a seismic event, such as avoiding bookcases, or, if driving, viaducts. The drill focuses on the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” protective actions people should take when a quake begins: “Drop” down to the floor, take “Cover” under a sturdy desk or table, and “Hold On” until the shaking stops.
The 2013 Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is sponsored by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium and its member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Other participating organizations include the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Geological Survey.