The Missouri Department of Transportation will join eight other states and more than 2.4 million people on Thursday to participate in the 2013 Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, an earthquake preparation drill.
The ShakeOut is being held on the 201st anniversary of the largest earthquake ever recorded in the continental United States. The New Madrid earthquake of Feb. 7, 1812, got its name from the pioneer community at the epicenter of the quake. Two other massive quakes occurred in the same region during the 1811-1812 time period.
The main focus of the drill is to prepare state offices, emergency agencies and private business for dealing with a major earthquake.
For MoDOT, the ShakeOut offers employees the chance to practice their personal safety plan at all MoDOT locations. The ShakeOut also will allow the department to run through its emergency response plan for earthquakes.
"Earthquakes strike without warning, so the best response is to be informed and prepared," Rick Bennett, MoDOT traffic liaison engineer, said. "MoDOT is ready with a plan that anticipates the damage a major earthquake could do to our transportation system and spells out how we respond."
MoDOT's top priority in the event of an earthquake is getting highways open for emergency response, and then to restore traffic as soon as it is safe and possible.
"During the ShakeOut, our emergency operations centers around the state will activate and deal with a mock-damage scenario," said Bennett. "We'll also ask our designated bridge inspectors to practice a post-incident bridge inspection."
Maintaining Missouri's bridges after an earthquake is a particular concern for the department. Since the 1990s, seismic design elements have been built into most new bridges, such as Cape Girardeau's Bill Emerson Bridge and the new Mississippi River Bridge currently under construction in St. Louis. Other key bridges, such as the double-decked section of Interstate 64 in downtown St. Louis, have been retrofitted.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone, centered in southeast Missouri, is the nation's most active earthquake zone east of the Rocky Mountains. A major New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquake would likely be felt throughout Missouri, as well as nearby states to the south and east.
Information on Thursday's ShakeOut is available at www.shakeout.org/centralus/index.html. For earthquake preparedness tips from the State Emergency Management Agency may be found at http://sema.dps.mo.gov/earthquake_preparedness.