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More than half-a-million Missourians, including several organizations in Callaway County, will soon participate in a regional earthquake drill.
"This is an annual earthquake drill we've had each year for the past seven years," said Jeff Briggs of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. "In the vicinity of the New Madrid Seismic Zone there are already more than 2.5 million participants."
The drill will take place next Thursday in 14 participating states in the central and eastern United States.
"On Oct. 20 at 10:20 a.m, those participating in the drill will drop, cover and hold on," he said. "We want everyone to practice. Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes have no warning sign or way of being tracked."
The risk of earthquakes in Missouri may be more elevated than people realize, Briggs said.
"The New Madrid Seismic Zone is the largest active seismic zone east of the Rocky Mountains," he added. "We get about 200 small earthquakes a year. There is a 150-mile fault line centered right on the boot hill in southeastern Missouri."
In fact, scientists claim the fault has a significant chance of housing an earthquake in the next half-century, Briggs added.
"The last really big earthquake happened about 200 years ago," he said. "Scientists are now saying there is about a 25 to 40 percent chance that in the next 50 years, the New Madrid Seismic Zone is going to be hit with a large earthquake."
The drill and informational videos on the organizations website teach safety techniques specific to the United States, Briggs said. These techniques generally differ from those of other developing countries in the world.
"Missouri and the U.S. are different from developing countries in dealing with earthquakes," he said. "The greatest risk for injury is not from a building collapsing, but getting hit by debris. We want people, when they feel shaking, to drop, crawl under a sturdy table and cover their heads with their hands and arms."
Practicing for emergency situations can often be lifesaver when disaster strikes, Briggs said.
"Drills are always important for a disaster," he added. "Drills can save lives if you protect yourself. It's especially important with earthquakes. Earthquakes happen with no warning; scientists haven't yet figured out how to predict them."
Karen Snethen, director of school and community programs at Fulton Public Schools, said the district has participated in the event for several years, and will continue the tradition this year.
"We participate every year," she said. "Where we live, we're not very far from the New Madrid fault. It's very possible we have an earthquake, and it's important for kids to know what to do when we have one."
Like other emergency drills, Snethen said teachers have been instructed on how to safely deal with an earthquake scenario, and will share their knowledge with the students before the drill.
"It's very important for them to know what to do when we are at school regarding any of these emergency situations," she added. "I grew up in Kentucky, and I can only remember one time when I felt shaking and it was very scary. It's important to be prepared for these events."
Briggs said those interested in registering or finding more information about the program can visit shakeout.org.
"It's not too late to sign up," he said. "If anyone would like to sign up and join the half-a-million people in Missouri, go to shakeout.org to register. Anybody can sign up; you can sign up your family, school or anybody at all."

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