Earthquake Preparedness

JONESBORO, AR--Are we prepared? After seeing the devastion caused by recent hurricane's and the government's response, it's a natural question to ask... Especially since we live along the New Madrid fault zone... An area with a population of over 10 million people.

Following a massive earthquake what steps have to be taken to provide help?

"We first go out and assess the damage and see how many people are affected and see how many people we need to put in shelters," said Mark Massey from the American Red Cross.

"We start looking at what's our situation how many beds do we have how crowded is the e.r., what do we need to be doing?" said Kathryn Blackman, Assistant Vice President of Education at St. Bernards Hospital.

An earthquake with a magnitude greater than 8.0 would likely destroy a number of buildings including hospitals. St. Bernards Hospital is built up to earthquake specifications but would it hold up after a major quake? For that the hospital has contingencies in place for hospital damage.

"If we had damage to the infrastructure we have alternate plans from moving from what is the formal emergency department to an alternate emergency department," said Blackman.

Statistically an earthquake along the New Madrid fault should be a 6.0 or greater every 60 years, the last one was 1895 so the area is due, but what does that mean for you to be prepared with your family?

"Have supplies, first aid supplies, food, water and clothing in a separate container you don't use everyday," said Blackman

In addition every family needs their own personal disaster plan including where to meet.

Improvements made to disaster plans are made after seeing errors made during disasters like Katrina. Following the hurricane one glaring weakness stood out.

"Providing communication that seems to be one of the biggest weak links that happened among health care and everything else," said Blackman.

One other concern following a quake is lack of medical supplies. An earthquake could knock out bridges and roads across the Mississippi River, which would cripple the supply route of medical supplies to the area. In response, Saint Bernards has agreements in place with suppliers in Little Rock and even Oklahoma to keep them stocked in time of disaster.