Is an earthquake likely?

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As we watch the world deal with the devastating effects of the earthquake in Japan, and the aftershocks that have continued to ravage that country, many may be thankful that they don’t have to deal with earthquakes here.

But there are several regions in the U.S. that might consider doing some planning for an earthquake. California might be top of mind when it comes to earthquakes. However, there are serious concerns over fault lines in the Midwest.

The New Madrid fault spans from northeast Arkansas to southern Illinois, passing through Missouri, western Tennessee and western Kentucky. The Wabash Valley fault is located along the Wabash River between southeastern Illinois and Indiana.

The New Madrid earthquake series that occurred in 1811 and 1812 includes some of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history, with estimated shock magnitudes of 7 to 8 and several hundreds of aftershocks.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the perception of strong shaking during this earthquake series was estimated to be two to three times larger than the 1964 Alaska earthquake and about 10 times larger than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Historically the size of earthquakes in the Wabash Valley do not reach the magnitude of the New Madrid, but it has been reported that this fault poses a high risk of damage with magnitudes that could reach up to 7.

A 2009 study by the Mid-America Earthquake Center found that if the New Madrid earthquakes of the 1800s occurred today it would have a devastating impact. According to some news reports it would dwarf the catastrophic damages of any natural disaster this nation has ever experienced. Results from the Mid-America Earthquake Center study indicate nearly 7.2 million people would be homeless, 2.6 million households without power, 130 hospitals damaged and $300 billion in economic losses.

It’s unknown when and if an earthquake could happen, but there is a better chance of an earthquake occurring in this area than winning the lottery, says Steve Cain, Extension Disaster Education Network Homeland Security Project Director.

There are steps that you can take to prepare your operation, in the event that an earthquake would occur. The four steps are:

1.       Get a kit

2.       Make a plan

3.       Be informed

4.       Get involved

The first step is to get a kit. This means that you gather enough food and water for the number of days you think it would take emergency personnel to get to you. This is typically three to five days, says Cain. But if the New Madrid or Wabash fault had an earthquake of 8 or 9 you’d be looking at five or more days of food storage.

Non-refrigeratored food items are recommended for your kit, such as peanut butter. Check the date for freshness and rotate items through. One gallon of water per day per person or pet should also be included in the kit. Make sure to rotate water too. Your pantry can be considered the kit, as long as it has the right supplies.

A National oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA radio is useful tool to have. It can be handy to have one in the barn as well as the house.

Other useful items include a flashlight, whistle, first aid kit, wrench or pliers, and prescriptions. If there are infants in the house the kit should also contain formula and diapers. It’s good to pack cards or other items to entertain both kids and adults. If you have pets make sure to stock pet supplies.

The second step is to make a plan. How will you get in contact with employees or family? How will your operation run? It’s important to think through how you will handle the situation ahead of time.

Next, be informed. Talk with local officials and find out what the possible local disasters in your area are.

Lastly get involved. Take a look at your local farm organizations, how could you get involved. Talk with the local Red Cross or local emergency responders they may have a program to train first responders in your area.

The number one thing you can do to help other people in a disaster situation is to prepare yourself for the disaster, says Cain. “You are saving other people, because emergency personnel don’t have to save your life.”

Stay tuned to the May issue of Dairy Herd Management for more information on how to prepare for a disaster.



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