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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

We must be ready for our own disaster

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We applaud Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and Sen. Jim Talent for their efforts to assure that this region is prepared for an earthquake that will most certainly strike this region one day. Emerson and Talent want the Homeland Security office to organize an emergency response drill within the next year to help us learn lessons from the twin hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast.

As we all know, our region sits smack dab on top of the New Madrid fault that carries the potential for widespread devastation. Experts say we have as much as a 40 percent chance of being struck by a magnitude 6.0 quake within the next 50 years. A quake of that size or larger would cause substantial damage. An earthquake the size that struck here in 1811 would bring devastation of unparalleled proportions.

Emerson and Talent are right. We need to face the certainty that the quake will someday come. Granted, there are limitations on just how prepared we can be. But given the results from New Orleans, preparation obviously would be helpful.

What we have to understand is that an earthquake brings a whole different set of problems. You wouldn't see long lines of traffic fleeing this region because most, if not all, of the roadways would be destroyed. And unlike a hurricane, an earthquake brings little warning. That makes preparation all the more important.

But the truth is that we can only prepare so much. We can mandate - as we do in many cases - earthquake-ready building codes. And we can construct bridges in a different fashion to help withstand an earthquake. But preparing the population of this region is a different matter. We've all been told, for example, that we should now have earthquake preparedness kits handy. But few of us actually do. In that way, we're much like the population of New Orleans who also had ample warning.

Regardless of the outcome, the concept of an emergency response drill is a good idea. We don't want the day to come and resort to finger-pointing as they have in Louisiana. Emerson and Talent know what they're talking about. Let's hope people listen.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen