Missouri observes Earthquake Awareness Month with emphasis on preparedness

February 05, 2024

Missourians reminded to be prepared in case of major earthquake in New Madrid Seismic Zone

JEFFERSON CITY – Each February, the state of Missouri observes Earthquake Awareness Month to emphasize the chance of a major earthquake occurring in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) and the importance of being prepared.

Located in Southeast Missouri, the NMSZ generated some of the most powerful earthquakes to ever jolt the nation. A series of major quakes occurred in 1811-1812, destroying buildings, ringing church bells hundreds of miles away and briefly causing the Mississippi River to run backward.

The area is still active today with an average of more than 200 earthquakes each year, though most are too small to be felt. No one can predict exactly when an earthquake will occur, but scientists agree that large earthquakes in this zone still pose a risk. Experts estimate there is a 25 to 40 percent chance of a large earthquake occurring in the next 50 years.

“Missouri faces a variety of severe weather threats and hazards each year, but a large earthquake could potentially be the worst natural disaster the state has ever experienced,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Remillard said. “There is no warning for earthquakes, which is why it’s so important to learn about the risks and how to protect yourself before one occurs.”

When shaking starts, the best way to stay safe and protect yourself from falling debris is the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” technique. Drop to your knees, cover your head, get under a desk or table if possible and hold on until the shaking stops. Experts say that in developed countries with modern structures, falling debris is the most common source of injury.

In active earthquake zones, it’s also important to prepare by taking some simple safety steps before an earthquake occurs:

Bolt bookcases to wall studs, install strong latches on cupboards and secure your home's water heater. If it tips over, it could start a fire or gas leak, and you could lose a valuable source of water.

Secure overhead lighting fixtures and move heavy objects from high shelves to lower ones. Many injuries in an earthquake are caused by this type of falling debris.

Put together an emergency kit, including a flashlight, first aid supplies, portable radio, drinking water and blankets. A major earthquake could leave families without utilities for weeks.

Develop a family communication plan. Identify a relative living at least 100 miles away that everyone can call to check in and tell family you're safe.

Know how to turn off your gas and water.

Find out if your house is covered for earthquake damage. Most homeowner insurance does not include earthquake coverage – it must be purchased separately.

Several resources for families, schools and businesses are available on SEMA's Earthquake Preparedness website. Included are fact sheets, interactive maps and informational videos that explain what to do in the event of an earthquake.

For more information, please visit sema.dps.mo.gov/earthquake_preparedness.