Arkansans Urged to Prepare Now for Possible Earthquake

May 24, 2006

The time for Arkansans to prepare for an earthquake is now, federal and state emergency officials say.

The United States Geological Survey considers Arkansas among the states with a “high earthquake risk” because of activity in the New Madrid fault zone.

The fault runs from Marked Tree to near Cairo, Ill., and while it remains active, most of the quakes are too small to be felt at the surface.

Win Henderson, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Little Rock, said May 22 the agency wanted to issue a reminder to residents because catastrophic earthquakes are so unpredictable.

“It could be tomorrow. It could be 60 years. We don’t know,” Henderson said.

In 1811-12, the faults produced some of the strongest temblors ever known to have struck the continental United States. Scientists say similar quakes could kill and injure thousands from St. Louis to Memphis, Tenn., but they’re uncertain about how much strain and movement is occurring along the fault zone.

FEMA and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management recommended that Arkansans prepare. The agencies advised residents to identify indoor and outdoor safe places to use if there is an earthquake, to have disaster supplies on hand, and to develop an emergency communications plan.

Property damage and personal injury can be minimized by following local building standards pertaining to earthquakes when remodeling or building a new home. Emergency officials made these recommendations in correcting potential hazards in the home:

–Fasten shelves securely to the walls.
–Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
–Store breakable items, such as bottled foods, glass, and china, in low, closed cabinets with latches. Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, and anywhere people sit.
–Brace overhead light fixtures.
–Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections, which are potential fire risks.
–Secure a water heater by strapping it to the wall studs and bolting it to the floor.
–Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.
–Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves in an area outside the home’s living space.

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