Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man did a post about Prepping and Earthquakes. It just so happens that I did a report on this subject when I was in college. It was a short writing assignment that was given to us each week, and that week’s report just happened to be on the New Madrid Fault. Much of that report applies to preppers as much as is it applies to emergnecy response areas. Here is a copy of that report, with the most boring and technical portions removed:
In 1811 and 1812, the
New Madrid area in the boot heel of Missouri was struck by a series of six to
nine earthquakes that ranged from an estimated 7.0 to 8.8 on the Richter scale,
and there were also numerous smaller aftershocks, and no fewer than 18 of these
quakes were felt along the Atlantic seaboard. The seismic waves were felt as
far as 2000 km away (Quebec) and caused damage over an area greater than
500,000 square km. Damage caused by the quakes
was limited, as the area was populated by less than 4,000 people at the time. This area is known as the New Madrid Seismic
Zone (NMSZ) and is the location of the rift where the North American Continent
nearly split apart 3 million years ago.
A similar scenario playing out today would be devastating
for a number of reasons. Population densities are much higher than they were
during the 1811-1812 events, and a large earthquake in the area today would
affect as many as 3 million people.
Infrastructure in the area was not constructed with earthquake
protection in mind, and many structures in the area are built upon fault lines,
as evidenced by the numerous sand boils in the area.
There are areas in the NMSZ where crops cannot grow, and
this makes that land relatively cheap to buy, and for this reason many
governments buy this land for infrastructure like roads, radio repeater sites,
power generation, and placing pipelines. The reason that this land is so cheap is that
the soil is contaminated with salty sand that has boiled up from deeper regions
of the earth where faults are located, as earthquakes disturb the land.
There are five major gas pipelines and two crude oil pipelines that pass
directly over the fault zones, and at one point, they pass over a fault line at
nearly the same point, with less than 10 miles separating four of the pipelines. NASA
has estimated that gas line ruptures and the ensuing explosions at that point
would be so large that their reflections would be visible as they bounced off
In the short term, responders would have to deal with all
of the standard problems associated with large disasters: fire, loss of
personnel, casualties to the population, etc.. Other problems would complicate
this, including the loss of electrical and natural gas supplies, and the
difficulty in getting aid into the area due to the loss of Mississippi river
bridges. The loss of communications would also complicate response to the area,
and make coordination of resources nearly impossible.
The long term effects of losses of this infrastructure
would be devastating to the population and problematic for emergency
responders, not only within the earthquake zone, but in areas served by this
infrastructure. The loss of five of the nine gas pipelines from the Texas/Louisiana
gas fields to the industrial areas of Chicago and the Ohio valley would likely
cause widespread disruption of energy and heating service in those areas. Loss
of the I-40 bridge in Memphis could potentially cause transportation delays, as
the loss of this bridge would cause land traffic detours of more than 300 miles
and make the Mississippi River impassible to water transport. Transformers lost as a
result of failures to the electrical grid could take eight to twelve months for
To combat this, the following steps need to be taken:
* Bridges and other existing structures,
including emergency operations centers, need to be hardened against earthquakes
* Radio repeater sites need to be located
away from sand boils, and mobile repeaters mounted on trailers need to be
* Responders need to ensure that they have
a disaster plan in place, and local authorities need to ensure that they are
prepared to use the National Incident Management system to coordinate amongst
themselves and the local utility providers.
* National guard planners from the
potentially most affected states of Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee and
Mississippi need to be ready to coordinate supply deliveries.
Some of these steps have already been taken. Bridges and
vital facilities are being retrofitted, and should be able to withstand a
magnitude 7 earthquake in the future. Of
course, it remains to be seen how they will withstand multiple events of this
magnitude, or how a magnitude 8 earthquake will affect them.