The Ohio Emergency Management Agency was among 11 businesses and state agencies participating in the second annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut earthquake drill.
Coordinated by the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, the event this year marked the bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquakes, a series of the largest recorded tremors that rattled the country east of the Rocky Mountains in 1811 and 1812.
"We practice all hazards here at Ohio EMA," said Tamara McBride, an agency spokeswoman. "It's important to make sure even though things that are not traditional -- like we are used to ... winter storms and flooding -- that we're prepared for the other end of the spectrum, too."
Ohio isn't known as an earthquake hot spot, but according to the Ohio Seismic Network, more than 200 mostly minor tremors have shaken the state since 1776.
"Drop, cover and hold on" is the recommended course of action during an earthquake, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It might not be the catchiest safety slogan, but it helps dispel popular myths about staying safe on shaky ground, such as standing under a doorway, say ShakeOut organizers.
"More injuries are caused by things falling on people than building collapses," said Brian Blake, earthquake program coordinator at the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium. " Bookshelves, televisions, they can become projectiles, literally, during strong ground shaking."
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey estimate that there's a 25 to 40 percent chance that the central United States will see a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years and a much smaller chance -- between 7 and 10 percent -- that something like the devastating New Madrid quakes will reoccur.
Ohio sits on the periphery of the New Madrid seismic zone, which includes parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.
Two hundred years ago, subterranean waves from New Madrid, Mo., were felt as far east as the Cincinnati area, jolting settlers from their sleep. Chimneys toppled. Folks thought the world was ending, according to personal accounts from the period. Michael Hansen, a state seismologist, said a repeat of the New Madrid shaking would pose the greatest risk for Ohioans. But it might be 500 or 1,000 years before it makes a comeback.
"The point of it is, we don't really know how big an earthquake we could have in Ohio and where exactly that could be," Hansen said.
Deanna Pan is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.
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