Quake preparation: ‘Shake out, don’t freak out’

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

At precisely 10:15 a.m., today, Mississippians will join their neighbors in eight other states for the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut.
It’s not a tribute to Elvis, a regionwide weight-loss launch or even a celebration of Jell-O. The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is a preparatory drill for earthquakes from Alabama to Oklahoma to Indiana.
“The ShakeOut is a great opportunity for all of us to practice our earthquake safety plan,” said Robert Latham, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. “That means learning and sharing with your family and friends how to drop, cover and hold on and identifying the safest place to take cover in each room of your home. Individual and family preparedness is the most important step to saving lives.”
David Shaw, emergency management coordinator for Lafayette County, said participation is simple.
“It’ll take maybe a minute,” he said. “They stress to drop, cover and hold on. If things start shaking, you want to remember that rather than run and scatter.”
The “drop, cover and hold on” concept emphasizes getting on hands and knees under a sturdy desk or table and hanging on to the sheltering item. It replaces some older advisories such as running outside or standing in a doorway.
While sizable quakes are less frequent in the central United States than on the Pacific Rim, the potential for “the Big One” is significant. In 1811 and 1812, a series of such tremors, including five estimated at more than 8.0, centered on New Madrid, Mo., reversing the flow of the Mississippi River, causing the earth to ripple in water-like waves and ringing church bells as far away as Boston, Mass.
Organizations, businesses, schools and families representing more than 2 million people have signed up to participate in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut. Among those listed in Northeast Mississippi are Benton County, Corinth, North Tippah and Okolona school districts; Rust College; Benton County, Chickasaw County and Lafayette County emergency management offices; and BancorpSouth.

errol.castens@journalinc.com