KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Did you know the two of the most active seismic zones in the eastern US go across Tennessee? To remind Tennesseans to prioritize earthquake preparedness, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is naming February 2022 as Earthquake Awareness Month.

“Many Tennesseans are surprised to know that earthquakes are a hazard in Tennessee,” said TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan. “Earthquake Awareness Month is an opportunity for individuals, businesses, and organizations to plan for the unexpected. I urge all Tennesseans to take meaningful action and prioritize earthquake preparedness.”

According to TEMA, earthquakes frequently occur in Tennessee as there are two seismic zones in the state, the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the west and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone in the east. A seismic zone is used to describe an area where earthquakes tend to focus.

2018 Long-term National Seismic Hazard Map
The map is based on the most recent USGS models for the conterminous U.S. (2018), Hawaii (1998), and Alaska (2007). The models are based on seismicity and fault-slip rates, and take into account the frequency of earthquakes of various magnitudes. Locally, the hazard may be greater than shown, because site geology may amplify ground motions.

The USGS estimates that earthquakes as large as 7.5 in magnitude are possible in the East Tennessee Seismic Zone. While in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, USGS estimates that within the next 50 years there is a 25–40% chance of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake.

While earthquakes most often occur with little to no warning, there are steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your family. TEMA suggests practicing responses, like Drop, Cover and Hold On, as you often only have seconds to protect yourself before strong shaking begins. The agency suggests identifying safe places before an earthquake.

  • DROP to the ground
  • Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table
  • HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops
(Photo via USGS)

If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, TEMA says to find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold On until the shaking stops. When driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. TEMA then said to proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.

According to TEMA, ground shaking during an earthquake is rarely the cause of injury instead most injuries and deaths are caused by collapsing walls and roofs, flying glass and falling objects.

How to protect your home

  • Secure heavy items, like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions, and objects that hang on walls.
  • Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.
  • Consider making improvements to fix structural issues that could cause your building to collapse during an earthquake.
  • Consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.

More tips for Earthquake preparedness can be found on the TEMA’s website.