Illinois warns residents that the time is now to be prepared for an earthquake

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EAST ST. LOUIS - Residents in southern California are cleaning up after two earthquakes last week caused extensive damage to infrastructure. The California earthquakes are not expected to affect fault lines in the St. Louis area, but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency issued a reminder Monday (July 8) that earthquakes can happen anywhere, any time, and without warning, so it is important for residents to be prepared.

There were no reported serious injuries or deaths due to the California earthquakes, but the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit California on Friday (July 5) caused buildings to crack, gas lines to rupture, and roads to crack. Herb Simmons, Emergency Management Director in St. Clair County, said a similarly sized earthquake could be catastrophic to the St. Louis area.

"If it would hit right here in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, you're going to see some major road problems," said Simmons. "(Illinois residents are) probably going to be cut off from St. Louis, bridges could sustain substantial damage."

In recent years, the Illinois Department of Transportation has reinforced several local bridges to prevent failure or collapse during an earthquake including the Interstate 64 Interchange, I-270 Chain of Rocks Bridge, and Highway 40/I-64.

St. Louis sits near two major fault lines: The New Madrid Seismic Zone and Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. According to the U.S. Geological Society, St. Louis has experienced minor earthquake damage 12 times in the past 200 years.

Simmons encourages people to be prepared. Secure water heaters and large appliances to the walls, anchor overhead light fixtures, and learn to shut off utilities in case lines are damaged.

In many states, earthquake coverage is sold separately from a standard homeowner’s policy. Talk to your agent to make sure your property is protected.

Kate Elder, a State Farm agent with an office in Belleville, recommends her clients take inventory of their items and store the information digitally so it can be more easily accessed after the event.

Residents must also consider how they will protect themselves in the event of an earthquake. Emergency management officials use the phrase "Drop, Cover and Hold On” to reminds people to drop down to the floor, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on to that object and be prepared to move with it until the shaking ends.

Each year, emergency management officials encourage homes, businesses, schools, and organizations to participate in the "world’s largest earthquake drill." This year's earthquake drill will take place on Thursday, October 17 at 10:17 a.m.  Register at http://www.shakeout.org.

Learn more about how you can prepare for an earthquake at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

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