SPRINGFIELD – Some of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in North America rocked the mostly rural central U.S. between December 1811 and February 1812, including parts of southern Illinois. The strongest earthquakes in this series were estimated to be around magnitude 8.0, and were felt as far away as the East Coast.
Today, this multi-state region is heavily populated and highly developed. A similar earthquake now would cause widespread devastation to buildings, utilities, roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as result in many injuries and deaths. While damage would be less severe in other parts of Illinois, utility outages, road closures and disruptions to deliveries of essential supplies would significantly impact the lives of most Illinoisans.
Recognizing the earthquake risk in Illinois, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies will promote earthquake preparedness throughout February.
“In addition to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, where the 1811-12 quakes occurred, southern Illinois is also adjacent to the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone,” said IEMA Interim Director Jennifer Ricker. “We can’t predict when the next devastating earthquake in this region will happen, but we can help people learn how to protect themselves and reduce damage to their homes.”
Ricker said people need to remember to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” when they feel the ground shaking: “Drop” down to the floor, take “Cover” under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture, and “Hold On” to the furniture item and be prepared to move with it until the shaking ends.
There are several steps people can take to help prevent injuries and property damage at home, such as strapping water heaters and large appliances to wall studs, anchoring overhead fans and light fixtures, and securing cabinet doors with latches. IEMA offers several short videos on do-it-yourself earthquake home mitigation projects at https://www.illinois.gov/iema/Mitigation/Pages/EarthquakeMitigationVideos.aspx.