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national guard preparing for earthquake drill Members of the logistics team from the Kentucky Emergency Management and National Guard discusses their role in a national level earthquake preparedness exercise planned for May. (Photo courtesy Kentucky Emergency Management)

U.S. Prepares for Disaster

National Guard to hold earthquake preparedness exercise

By Jack Keyes | April 1 , 2011

After recent major earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan, Americans are now wondering about the possibility of a big quake here at home. One such quake happened 200 years ago along the New Madrid Fault. It impacted parts of Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois.

In conjunction with the bicentennial of the New Madrid earthquake, the U.S. National Guard will be holding a preparedness exercise. Planned for the third week of May, the national-level exercise will involve thousands of personnel across eight states along the New Madrid fault.

"We've been working on this scenario long before the earthquake in Japan," said Colonel Wayne Burd, Project Officer for the National Level Exercise.

The Kentucky Emergency Management and National Guard personnel met with federal, state, and local authorities recently to discuss the upcoming national level exercise. The meeting actually took place three days before the quake hit in Japan.

Working on a scenario before catastrophe strikes is the best way to survive a detrimental quake, Colonel Burd said. Putting a disaster plan together is the best way to prepare.

Here are some of Colonel Burd's suggestions for what people can do at home:

1. Gather essential items such as bottled water and packaged food. Other important components include a flashlight, a blanket or something to keep you warm, and a family photo.

2. Have a battery-operated radio (with extra batteries) to provide information and safety advisories.

3. Don't forget a first aid kit!

4. Write down a relative's contact information and keep it with the supplies. Keep these supplies in your car as well as in your home and at work.

5. Have a plan for evacuation and a pre-designated place for a reunion.  

Earthquakes often come without warning, so it is important to practice "earthquake drills," Burd said.

During an earthquake, a common way to protect yourself in a school setting is to go under your desk as you lean down on your knees with hands on your neck. The desk will shield you from falling debris.

If you are at home or at another location, the most important thing to do is drop, cover, and hold on.

If an earthquake emergency occurs, the National Guard will be ready, says Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, Kentucky Emergency Management Director and the Land Forces Commander for the Kentucky National Guard.

"We're here to plan on how we will save lives," he told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps.


A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck northeast Japan on Friday, March 11, causing a destructive tsunami that reached the west coast of the United States. Scholastic News Kid Reporters are collecting information about the quake and its aftermath and talking to people who have family and friends in Japan and looking into how kids can help with relief efforts. Find their stories in the Earthquake in Japan Special Report.


Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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