People of a certain age may recall “Duck and cover!” safety drills during the Cold War, when people were taught how to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.
That seems naive today, but emergency officials are urging people to take seriously some practical precautions for a different kind of calamity: earthquakes.
A “ShakeOut” will occur at exactly 10:20 a.m. Thursday. Participants will be encouraged to “Drop, cover, hold on” — as in drop to your hands and knees under a table or desk, cover your head and neck with your hands and arms and hold on until the shaking stops.
Emergency management officials say that is the best protection from falling debris, which is the biggest threat during an earthquake in developed countries with modern building standards.
Go to ShakeOut.org to register for regular updates on the drill and other information about earthquake preparedness and safety. As of Monday morning, more than 18 million people in the United States had registered, including nearly 2.7 million in the 14 states that make up the central region — the one included in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
Centered in the Missouri Bootheel and northwestern Tennessee, it is the most active earthquake zone in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, three to five quakes of a magnitude 7.0 or greater occurred in the New Madrid Fault from December 1811 to February 1812. The seismic zone appears to be about 30 years overdue for a magnitude 6.3 quake.
The St. Louis area could be significantly affected by such a quake. But the Kansas City area got a small taste of the Earth’s power shortly after 7 a.m. Sept. 3 when a 5.8 magnitude quake in Oklahoma was felt here.