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Earthquake: Is the Midwest prepared?

In the last week there have been earthquakes across the globe. Ranging from those that caused buildings to fall, to quakes and tremors that were hardly felt. The Midwest recorded its own earthquake near Paducah, Kentucky.

Red circles – indicate earthquakes that occurred 1974 – 2002 with magnitudes 2.5 or greater. Green circles – indicate earthquakes that occurred prior to 1974. Larger earthquakes represented by larger circles.
U.S. Geological Survey

The first in the string of quakes struck Greece and was accompanied by a number of aftershocks. With roads damaged or closed due to land slides and some buildings collapsed, schools were closed and a state of emergency declared. On January 26th and again on the 28th minor earthquakes were measured in Oklahoma near Oklahoma City, no major damage or injuries were reported. The third earthquake was recorded on January 26th outside of Paducah, Kentucky in Kevil. There were no injuries or major damage reported but the earthquake was reported to have been felt throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois.

In the Midwest, the concern for earthquakes may seem unnecessary and the threat of severe humidity more likely. The 150-mile long fault system, the New Madrid Seismic Zone, sits in the heart of the Midwest, giving an almost perfectly placed strategic position of attack, increasing the chance of experiencing an earthquake in seven different states, a real possibility. According to the United Stated Geological Survey a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in 1895 damaged all buildings in Charleston, Missouri. Chimneys were reported toppled in St. Louis, Missouri, Memphis Tennessee, Gadsden, Alabama, and Evansville, Indiana.

The USGS cites the most recent major earthquake as 1968 near Dale, Illinois. The 5.4 magnitude earthquake damaged the civic building in Henderson, Kentucky and was felt in 23 states.

Scientist Susan Hough of the USGS told the Liberty Voice that she expects the region might see an earthquake measuring around 7.0 once every 500 years, 6.0 every 50 years, with the last occurring in 1895, making the Midwest due for another earthquake.

Be Prepared

To prepare for an earthquake or any natural disaster it is important to build an emergency kit. An emergency kit should contain enough food, water, and supplies, such as a first aid kit, medications, flashlights, and a weather radio, for 72 hours. You can learn more about building and maintain an emergency kit at

Basic home earthquake preparation includes securing anything that may fall or tip over. Any object that may harm you or cause sever damage should be firmly secured to floor and walls. Items like shelves, refrigerators, pictures, mirrors, water heaters should be secured to the wall and floor. Breakable food containers, glasses, and china should be stored low in cabinets with latches.

Consider your bedroom and what items may be hanging near you while you sleep. Keep the walls clear near your bed. Flammable or toxic substances should be stored in approved containers. Repair cracks in your foundation, ceilings, walls, and floors. Repair leaking water or gas pipes.

If you are in an earthquake and you are outdoors, move away from tall structures and objects such as buildings and utility poles. If you are indoors get under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in the corner of a building. Stay way from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall. Only use a doorway for protection if you know it is a load-bearing doorway. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.

If you are trapped under debris do not light a match or lighter. The flame may ignite ruptured gas lines or other flammables. Attempt to keep as still as possible, moving may agitate toxic dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or piece of clothing. Tap on a pipe or walls, or use a whistle if one is available so rescuers can locate you. Call out for help only as a last resort as shouting can cause you to inhale potentially dangerous amounts of dust.

For more information on disaster prevention visit

For information on the latest information from the U.S. Geological Survey visit

Alex Zielinski is a volunteer firefighter in Evansville, Indiana and a full-time firefighter in Providence, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter @FireSafetyAZ If you enjoyed this article leave a comment or click subscribe above to receive notification of future stories. Read a previous Fire Safety article: Couple's death linked to carbon monoxide, know this silent killer

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