NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Great American ShakeOut earthquake drill took place nationwide Thursday, when people practiced the simple drop, cover, and hold on safety steps.
Tennessee is no stranger to earthquakes. The state has frequent small earthquakes in both West and East Tennessee.
However, there is at least one documented major earthquake in our state’s history.
In 1811-1812, the New Madrid Fault Zone located in southeast Missouri, northwest Tennessee, and northeast Arkansas created an earthquake so strong that it caused church bells to ring and sidewalks to crack on the East Coast of the United States due to the shaking.
In Washington, D. C. President James Madison was reportedly awakened by the shaking.
Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan explained the importance of being aware of this fault line and the consequences if it should create another large earthquake.
“When the 1811-1812 earthquakes happened they could be felt a long way. When earthquakes happen in the eastern half of the United States, those earthquake waves propagate a long distance,” Sheehan explained. “We know that if something has happened, the way I view it, it will happen again.”
So the point is to be prepared.
Sheehan said just remember these three words – drop, cover and hold. “Anybody can understand that and do it. Drop to the ground, cover yourself with a desk or your hand or whatever you have, and hold on something.”
He continued, “We use the Great American Shake Out as just a way to focus people on that single action of preparedness to call attention to the fact that there is some seismic risk any place you are.”
Sheehan also pointed out that the East Tennessee Seismic Zone creates frequent earthquakes, as well, but they are small.
Also, that zone does not have the history of violent earthquakes like the New Madrid Fault Zone.
However, with the presence of nuclear power plants in the eastern part of the state, there is always a concern, and those plants are inspected after any significant seismic events.