How Prepared are we for Next Big Earthquake

April 18, 2006 -- Posted at 5:03 p.m. CST


JONESBORO, AR -- On April 18, 1906 one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history hit the city of San Francisco.


Hundreds of people died during and after the earthquake, primarily because they weren't properly prepared...


“The devastating thing about 1906, which is why people remember it the most, is because a lot of people were killed because of the fire,” said Carolyn Dowling, a professor of environmental chemistry at Arkansas State University.

San Francisco lies along the San Andreas Fault.


The New Madrid Fault runs right through Region 8.


“The New Madrid Seismic Zone is an actual failed rift.  That’s when plates, during plate tectonics actually move away from one another,” said Dowling.


For those of us who live along the New Madrid Fault, we too fear a devastating

earthquake like the one that hit San Francisco.


“An earthquake in Craighead County will be a more catastrophic event than any tornado or ice storm, because it will not be an isolated event, it will be a widespread event,” said Craighead County Coordinator for Emergency Management Jack Richardson.


In the event of an earthquake, it may take a few days for emergency response crews to get into your area.  It’s important for you and your neighbors to be able to take care of yourselves and each other.


“They used to say be prepared for 72 hours, now they’re talking about a week,” said Richardson.


The last major earthquakes to strike along the New Madrid Fault happened almost 200 years ago.


“There were three major earthquakes, magnitude 8 plus, two in 1811 and one in 1812,” said Dowling.


Here in Region 8, we occasionally feel small tremors, but nothing that would cause major destruction


“The reoccurrence interval for such large earthquakes is actually 600 to 900 years within the New Madrid Seismic Zone,” said Dowling.


Over the years, different people have predicted that a big earthquake would hit the New Madrid Fault.  Those dates have come, and past.


Professor Dowling says that we can’t accurately predict when an earthquake will hit.

The primary thing we can do is be prepared.


Craighead County officials do have a preparedness plan in place.  Their plan is a widespread plan that also includes plans for ice storms, tornados, and other disasters.


An earthquake drill is being planned for this June.