Southern Illinois earthquake prompts call for emergency preparedness



(The Center Square) – Southern Illinois residents are stressing the need to stand ready for emergencies after a 3.2 magnitude tremor shook much of the area earlier this month.

This earthquake Dec. 17 was brief and hit overnight at 10:10 p.m. in Jefferson County between Waltonville and DuBois with no major damage reported, according to Matt Bierman, director of Washington County Emergency Management Agency.

“A lot of people thought it was a sonic boom or a truck driving by but there was a little bit of a shake too, and it was felt over a lot of southern Illinois,” Bierman said, adding that “tremors happen quite frequently.”

The biggest concern is yet to come. Since the area is sandwiched between two seismic zones, New Madrid and Wabash Valley, there has long been anticipation of an epic event. For that Bierman is asking residents to get ready.

“When it does happen, it will throw us into Third World country for a while until we can get help and they need to be prepared for that,” he told The Center Square, picturing the loss of bridges and cell service.

Bierman stressed the need to have a prearranged place to meet family, as well as emergency and medical supplies, flashlights with extra batteries, non-perishable food, water and easy access to important documents.

“You need to be able to sustain yourself for a minimum of 72 hours,” he said, also emphasizing the need to stay calm and obey laws.

Family drills can reinforce what to do when a quake strikes, such as seeking shelter under sturdy furniture until able to flee outside. The shelter should be found away from power lines, ideally an open field. He also suggested a battery-operated AM radio to keep residents abreast of emergency response efforts.

While this major quake has been suggested for some time, Bierman said folks should look at it as a definite.

“The experts say it is gonna happen. It’s not an if but rather a when,” he said.

Bierman called to mind that the largest earthquake in U.S. history occurred in Illinois over 200 years ago and the area is sandwiched between two seismic zones.

To learn how to survive and stand ready, he directs residents to the federal website or state website at

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