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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Efforts continue to prepare residents for next great shake

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sikeston kindergarten students practice an earthquake drill Friday
(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- It's been more than 100 years since a major earthquake rattled the New Madrid Fault Line. Science experts say the area is "long overdue" for something similar to what happened in 1895.

"We need to be prepared," said Steve Besemer, earthquake program manager for the State Emergency Management Association. And that's what the association aims to do this month, with several programs around the state, with an emphasis on home and business mitigation projects and activities.

"I think it's something we've always got to keep in the back of our mind," agreed Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, who also serves on the state's seismic safety committee. "We certainly have to be aware of what we can do to better prepare ourselves should that event happen."

To increase that awareness, for the first time this year, the activities spans an entire month, not just a week.

"We had enough activities that we wanted to try and do, and to pack it into a week made it tough," said Besemer. Local events included an earthquake awareness class field trip on Saturday morning at the New Madrid Fault Line, and an awareness event is planned from 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 23 at the Nature Center in Cape Girardeau.

Saturday's field trip will give people a better idea of what the situation is like in New Madrid. "People seem to come away with a better appreciation of the hazard," said Besemer.

Besemer said next weekend's event will be "hands on."

"We hope to have some exhibits there that are demonstrations, rather than just brochures and pamphlets," he said. "We want to try to get kids in and give them some basic knowledge."

However, there will be pamphlets and information provided to parents on how to keep their home, office and other places safe and ready for an emergency such as an earthquake.

However, children already get quite a bit of education on earthquake preparedness and the science behind them -- at least in the Sikeston R-6 School District.

"We make sure that we go through our earthquake drills in all of our buildings," said Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller. "We do beyond what the state requires -- we're very safety-oriented and want to continue to be that way."

Typically, the drills are done most often in elementary buildings, where students are "more impressionable," continued Borgsmiller.

Jenny Hobeck, principal at the Sikeston Kindergarten Center, said the building goes through drills each month. "Because our kids are so young, you really have to teach them the routine and what to do in situations," said Hobeck. They also talk about home safety tips, said Hobeck.

She said some lesson plans revolve around that -- and the drills also teach children listening skills.

Juden said that, on the state level, he is working with others to put together a strategic plan for the response. According to a recent news release from SEMA, such a quake could impact 47 counties.

One of the most important parts of the plan is communication, Juden said. "We'll lose all communications we take for granted," he said. "Cell phones are not going to work -- and everybody better realize that."

Southeast Missouri residents should download the Citizen's Disaster Manual, located at the Sikeston DPS' Web site, www.sikeston.org/PublicSafety, Juden advised. "It sort of outlines how the city will operate," he said.

"Obviously we would like for everybody to be as self-sufficient as they can," Juden continued. "Even with an agency our size, we can't serve everybody."

He said people can get prepared by knowing where their electric and water shut offs are and secure their hot water heater, as well as have food and supplies to sustain themselves for awhile.

"Not only is that preparing for an earthquake, but should there be another event, you'll still have enough supplies there to help you get through it," said Juden.

Besemer agreed that such a kit is a good idea for all sorts of hazards.

For those that can't come to the events, SEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Association, Red Cross and Health Departments also have information, Besemer said.

"A lot of that stuff is pretty simple to do and relatively inexpensive," he said.

One of the most important things is to be aware of surroundings at home or in the business place.

"Look at the facilities and see if there are some areas where they may be vulnerable," he said. For instance, Besemer said it may not be a good idea to have a glass vase on top of a shelf, as then people may have to walk across that glass to get to another location.

He also urged that, if people have ideas of events to add on next year, to contact someone at the SEMA. "We're always interested in looking at different sorts of events," he said. "We're interested in going where the interest is."