Earthquakes strike suddenly, without warning. Earthquakes can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. On a yearly basis, 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world. Estimates of losses from a future earthquake in the United States approach $200 billion. Forty-five states and territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes, and they are located in every region of the country. California has experienced the most frequent damaging earthquakes; however, Alaska has experienced the greatest number of large earthquakes—many of which caused little damage because of the area’s low population density at the time.
The most widely felt sequence of earthquakes in the contiguous 48 states was along the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, where a three-month long series of quakes from 1811 to 1812 included three with estimated magnitudes of 7.6, 7.7, and 7.9 on the Richter Scale. These earthquakes were felt over the entire eastern United States, with Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi experiencing the strongest ground shaking.
Much of the damage caused by earthquakes is predictable and preventable. We must all work together in our communities to apply our knowledge to enact and enforce up-to-date building codes, retrofit older unsafe buildings, and avoid building in hazardous areas, such as those prone to landslides. We must also look for and eliminate hazards at home, where our children spend their days, and where we work. And we must learn and practice what to do if an earthquake occurs.
If you are at risk from earthquakes, you should:
- Discuss with members of your household the possibility of earthquakes and what to do to stay safe if one occurs. Knowing how to respond will help reduce fear.
- Pick “safe places” in each room of your home and your office or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture, such as a sturdy table or desk, or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture that could fall on you
- Practice drop, cover, and hold on in each safe place. Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on to a leg of the furniture. If suitable furniture is not nearby, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
- Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed.
- Talk with your insurance agent about earthquake protection. Different areas have different requirements for earthquake protection. Study the locations of active faults, and, if you are at risk, consider purchasing earthquake insurance.
- Inform guests, babysitters, and caregivers of earthquake plans. Everyone in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs, even if you are not there at the time.
For general preparedness, every household should create and practice a Family Disaster Plan and assemble and maintain a Disaster Supplies Kit. In addition, every household should take earthquake specific precautions and plan and practice what to do in the event of an earthquake. For more information on disaster preparedness feel free to contact the Rock River Chapter at: (815) 963-8471 or rockriver.redcross.org.