Emergency responders plan for major earthquake
Photo by Jan Sisk Thayer Emergency Management Director Mark Arnold worked with officials from nine other counties June 20 to help prepare a plan for southern Missouri in the event a large earthquake should occur along the New Madrid Fault.
AREA -- Emergency responders from nine counties in southern Missouri, including Oregon County, met June 20 at the Missouri Department of Conservation Ozark Regional Office in West Plains. Its purpose was to plan and set up an emergency operations center in the event a major earthquake should occur along the New Madrid Fault line in eastern Arkansas.
Thayer Emergency Management Director Mark Arnold represented Oregon County. He said in all, 85 people represented the nine counties.
This is the first regional simulation of this type ever held in the state.
Arnold said a classroom was set up that served as the emergency operations center. The exercise was designed to test plans that are in place, look at flaws in those plans and develop new plans where they might be necessary if a large earthquake should occur.
The New Madrid Fault extends 120 miles south of Charleston, Mo., through New Madrid and Caruthersville, Mo., along Interstate 55 to Marked Tree, Ark. It crosses five state lines, cutting three times across the Mississippi River and twice across the Ohio River.
Oregon County lies some 75 miles west of the fault line in Arkansas.
More than 200 earthquakes are recorded along the fault every year -- approximately 20 a month. The earthquakes are small on the Richter scale, measuring 1.0 to 3.0. About every 18 months a quake of 4.0 or more is measured that can cause minor damage.
A spokesperson from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said the exercise last week was to prepare for an earthquake measuring 7.7 or greater, that would cause major damage.
Missouri is divided into three emergency sections if an earthquake should occur. Howell County is on a dividing line of one of those sections and will be vital because of Highways 60, 63 and 160.
Arnold said this portion of the state will be instrumental in getting first responders and emergency personnel and equipment from the western and northern portions of the state to the disaster area.
"As many as 30,000 could be moving through our area if this disaster should occur," Arnold said.
Region G SEMA agent Terry Tolar said emergency personnel in our area should be prepared with fuel and food for evacuees heading west, away from the earthquake damage.
All nine counties worked together to prepare a plan dealing with healthcare, lodging, food, fuel and other items and services that will be needed if a large earthquake should occur.
The goal of the exercise was to help the emergency responders help earthquake victims get to larger cities where help would be available. Arnold said Oregon County would only be a rest stop and the goal of the emergency personnel would be to help transport the refugees to Springfield.
Other emergency exercises are planned in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois, four other states that would also be impacted if a disaster occurred along the New Madrid Fault.