It was December 1811 and
without warning, the ground began to shake along a stretch of land now called the New Madrid Seismic Zone, just west of Memphis,
TN and into southern Illinois.
During the cold winter months of December, January and February, three “mega quakes” shook the earth
with such force that it caused church bells to ring in New England, side walks to crack in Boston, destroyed countless buildings,
and was said to cause the Mississippi River to alter its course. The shaking was felt across the United States, to the Gulf
of Mexico and into Canada. Hundreds of aftershocks were reported into 1812. Scientists tell us these quakes
would have measured at least a 7 or 8 magnitude on the Richter scale.
Two hundred years later, in 2011, we honor
the anniversary of the “Great 1811 – 1812 New Madrid Quakes” that forever changed our landscape.
This bicentennial provides a unique opportunity to remind us of our vulnerability to earthquakes and to stay prepared.
The month of February was Earthquake Awareness Month. It kicked off the bicentennial with conferences, workshops, public
outreach events, and multi-state earthquake exercises.
We don’t know when the next “big one”
will occur. Situated in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, Shelby County is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes.
Scientists tell us it is not a matter of if, but when. However, if we are prepared, the emergency agencies
as well as our citizens, we will survive and get back to normal much quicker.
The Shelby County Office of Preparedness
will participate in the National Level Exercise later this year in May.
How to stay safe before, during, and after an earthquake:
Secure your Home:
Identify hazards in the home.
• Create a clear path out of each room
Fasten shelves to the walls
• Place large, heavy objects on lower
Store breakables in closed cabinets with latches
heavy items away from beds or couches
• Secure water heater by strapping
it to the wall studs
Designate a Safe Place: Identify a “safe place” indoors and outdoors such
a heavy desk or table to crouch under
• against an inside
away from glass, windows or heavy furniture
• an open place away
from buildings, trees, and electrical wiring
Disaster Kit: Create a disaster kit that will sustain
you and your pets for seven days to include:
• Flashlight and batteries
NOAA Weather radio with batteries
Clothing and boots
First aid kit
Develop an Emergency Communications Plan
ahead of time where you will meet family members if separated by disaster events
Designate out of town relative to be the “contact” everyone will call if separated
Educate your family and employees:
• Teach children how to
Take the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training
Take the month of February
to learn your risks of earthquakes and how to prepare for them. Your preparedness now may save your life
and reduce the impact of an earthquake.
Shelby County Office of Preparedness web site: www.staysafeshelby.us
Ready Shelby web site: www.readyshelby.org
web site: www.ready.gov
• Citizen Corps web site:
• Federal Emergency Management Agency
web site: www.fema.gov