Are You Ready for the ShakeOut?

Kids at a school in Los Angeles show what it means to “drop, cover and hold on.”

If the earth started shaking when you were at school, would you know what to do?

What if it happened while you were at home?

Would your family be prepared?

For a lot of people in the nation’s midsection, the answer might be, “No.”

And a lot of those people might wonder, “Why do I need to know about earthquakes, anyway?”

Steve Bessemer has the answer.

“We certainly have the potential to have (an earthquake) at any time,” said Bessemer, the program director for the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, in an interview with Saint Louis radio station KMOX.

That’s why schools in Missouri and eight other central states will hold a special earthquake drill on Thursday.

It’s called the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut.

At 10:15 Thursday morning, everyone will “drop, cover and hold on” – the three key things you need to remember, in case you’re ever in an earthquake.

That’s drop to the floor; take cover under a table, a desk or another sturdy object; and hold on until the shaking stops.

Sounds simple, right?

But it’s easy to get caught off guard.

“With earthquakes, you don’t get any sort of warning,” Bessemer told KMOX.  “(So) you need to prepare ahead of time.”

Saint Louis doesn’t get hit by earthquakes very often.

But it’s only about 165 miles north of the epicenter of some of the most powerful quakes this country has ever seen.

Back in 1811 and 1812, several huge earthquakes that were centered in Missouri shook much of the United States.

People felt at least one of the quakes as far away as New England — close to 1,000 miles away!

The quakes were centered along a fault line near the town of New Madrid, Missouri.

A fault is a crack in the earth.

An earthquake happens when the land on one side of a fault slips or slides against the land on the other side.

That’s what causes the earth to shake.

There haven’t been any major quakes in the New Madrid area for a long time.

But if there were, it wouldn’t just be Missouri that would be affected.

For example, New Madrid is only around 120 miles north-northeast of Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s also less than 50 miles from the southern tip of Illinois.

And it’s right across the Mississippi River from Kentucky.

That’s why kids in Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee will also take part in Thursday’s ShakeOut – along with kids in Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Even if you’re not in one of those states, you can still hold your own earthquake drill on Thursday.

Again, the key words to remember:  Drop, cover and hold on!

“The drill only takes a few minutes,” said Jonathon Monken, the director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, in an interview with GateHouse News Service.  “But the lessons learned can save countless lives.”