Close to New Madrid Fault, Memphis Undertakes Earthquake Planning

Shelby County, Tennessee emergency planners must identify “pinch points” that are most vulnerable to earthquake damage, Mayor A C Wharton says.

“The best safety tool we have is to be aware of what we can do to avoid harm and get to a place of safety,” Wharton said at a recent meeting on earthquake preparedness.

Memphis is the largest city closest to the New Madrid Fault, a geological break line at the center of one of the most active earthquake zones in the United States.

The fault produces hundreds of small quakes annually, most of which are too weak for most people to notice. But scientists say a damaging New Madrid quake could occur at any time.

Gary Patterson of the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information warned Wharton and others at the meeting to work toward identifying hospitals, nursing homes, neighborhoods and other so-called “pinch points” that would be particularly vulnerable.

“Hurricane Katrina showed us that the underserved people in the 9th Ward (of New Orleans) were some of the most devastated,” Patterson said.

“We’re on a search for our ‘pinch points’ because our ability to respond and be resilient during a disaster hinges on whether we are able to serve the needs of the most needy.”


Information from: The Commercial Appeal,