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Monday, July 28, 2014

Earthquake preparedness: State, local events planned

Sunday, January 28, 2007

SIKESTON -- All things considered, it is better to be prepared for major earthquake that never comes than to be caught unprepared.

Earthquake Awareness programs and events have been scheduled by the State Emergency Management Agency to take place beginning Thursday and running through Feb. 11.

Local residents made a lot of preparations following Ivan Browning prediction of a major earthquake more than 10 years ago, according to Tom Bridger, emergency management coordinator for the city of Sikeston, including preparing their homes and assembling disaster kits.

"They had things ready," he said. "But people's emergency supplies have dwindled."

One thing hasn't changed, however: "We do live in an area that is prone to earthquakes," Bridger said.

Bridger said waiting until the last minute is not an option when it comes to preparing for a natural disaster like an earthquake.

Residents need to be ready to be on their own for up to 14 days without outside assistance, according to Bridger.

"And that includes a place to stay," he said. "If I have to do that with a tent, then I have to do that with a tent."

Before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, "we were promoting the idea that you should be ready to be self sufficient for the first 72 hours," Bridger recalled. "Katrina was an eye opener, but we're looking at such a larger area that would be affected by an earthquake. People should be prepared to be self sufficient for at least 7-14 days."

When officials discuss a major earthquake, they typically think in terms of an earthquake of at least 7.7 on the Richter scale, according to Bridger.

Bridger said DPS has worked with schools, businesses, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the local phone company in an attempt to be as prepared as possible for a earthquake of this magnitude.

"I don't think anybody is ever truly ready for a major earthquake," he said.

An "in-service" event was recently held with the entire school system staff, according to Bridger, during which DPS worked within the school system's plans and procedures to see how it functioned and to determine if any changes needed to be made.

"We were very impressed with the schools plans and the schools responses to several of the scenarios we set up," Bridger said. "I think they are as ready as any organization could be for an earthquake."

DPS has also had meetings with some of the area's largest employers to discuss their earthquake readiness.

"They've actually gone on their own and done the majority of it," Bridger said. "They seem to be fairly organized themselves."

In meetings with local telephone service providers, officials have been advised lines may be severed due to ground upheavals, according to Bridger.

"I think telephone service for the area is basically going to be lost as well as cell phone service," he said.

DPS officials have also met with MoDOT officials to discuss transportation issues that may have to be dealt with following a major earthquake. "They've been involved in a lot of our meetings at the local, state and federal level," Bridger said.

He said examples of transportation questions include, "Can assistance get here initially? Are the roadways going to be open? Are the bridges and overpasses going to be functional? What kind of infrastructure damage will be done to the roadways?"

While officials really don't know exactly what kind of damage will be done, they are reasonably sure of one thing: "outside assistance would be coming in from the west," Bridger said.

He said area residents who need specific advice on making preparations should refer to the citizens' handbook which can be found on the city's Web site, www.sikeston.org, by following the "Emergency Management Info" link.

"That gives information for all kinds of possible disasters, not just earthquakes but tornadoes and other such things -- it has all kinds of topics in it," Bridger said. "If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, so every one of us need to be prepared."