Our View: Are we prepared?

September 8, 2011 12:11:00 PM



An earthquake on the East Coast. Hurricane Irene. 


What''s next? And are we prepared for it? 


What we didn''t see much of on the national news, as the aftermath of the latest natural disasters flashed across the screen, was disaster-management strategy. 


It has taken years for the region and nation to rebound from Hurricane Katrina. 


Still, we continue to build in high-risk areas, then seem ill-prepared, physically and financially, when Mother Nature strikes. 


Smithville is one of many communities struggling to rebuild after a series of April tornadoes devastated the town. 


Locally, there are no community storm shelters where people in apartments, mobile homes or other sensitive structures can retreat. Do you know where you would go should catastrophe threaten? 


There are numerous companies in the area processing hazardous materials. And while the companies have their own hazmat teams, as do local emergency-response agencies, the community at large knows little to nothing about what to do in the event of a chemical spill. 


Earthquakes aren''t events we typically think about in this area. But many don''t realize an active fault system isn''t far from us. The New Madrid Fault extends 120 miles south, from Charleston, Mo., to Marked Tree, Ark., crossing through parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee and cutting across the Mississippi River in three places. 


On Thanksgiving in 1996, the fault released a shock of 4.3 on the Richter scale. It was felt in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Mississippi. Typically, in a year''s time, there are 200 measurable events stemming from the New Madrid Fault. 


We''re not looking to send a jolt of paranoia through the community. But we do wish local emergency-management agencies would do more to better prepare all of us for disasters -- both natural and manmade.