Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking – Staying safe during an earthquake

Mayor Gary Graham

Mayor Gary Graham

In October every year, the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut takes place as an annual reminder to practice how to be safer during big earthquakes: “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” The ShakeOut has also been organized to encourage you, your community, your school, or your organization to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.

In the past 25 years, scientists have learned that strong earthquakes in the central Mississippi Valley are not freak events but have occurred repeatedly in the geologic past. The areas of major earthquake activity in the central U.S. are the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. The NMSZ is made up of several thrust faults that stretch from Marked Tree, Arkansas to Cairo, Illinois. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone is located in Southeastern Illinois and Southwestern Indiana.

An earthquake from these zones could certainly affect our area. For example, in 1811, an earthquake from the NMSZ rang church bells in Boston, Massachusetts, 1,000 miles away. So, we can easily say that O’Fallon, which is approximately 180 miles from the NMSZ, could feel the shakes from an earthquake that comes from this area.

We all must get better prepared for major earthquakes, and practice how to protect ourselves when they happen. The purpose of the ShakeOut is to help people and organizations do both. You could be anywhere when an earthquake strikes: at home, at school, or even on vacation.

Why is it important to prepare for an earthquake? To react quickly, you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake. Practicing helps you be ready to respond.

  • If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, then Drop, Cover, and Hold On:
    • Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you).
    • Take Cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table.
    • Hold On to it until shaking stops.
  • If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover, Hold On. Stay there until the shaking stops.
  • If you are driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.

Ground shaking during an earthquake is seldom the cause of injury. Most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by collapsing walls and roofs, flying glass, and falling objects. It is extremely important for a person to move as little as possible to reach the place of safety he or she has identified because most injuries occur when people try to move more than a short distance during the shaking.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut or more information about how to prepare for an earthquake, please go to

We hope that one never happens, but in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster, the O’Fallon Public Safety Department is ready to respond. The City of O’Fallon’s dedication to protecting the health and safety of O’Fallon’s residents is yet another example of why O’Fallon is such a great community in which to live.