NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION, Jan. 25, 2010 – Theresa Jefferson and John Harrald, research faculty at the Virginia Tech Center for Technology, Security, and Policy in the National Capital Region recently completed a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-funded research project to model the social impacts and disaster response requirements of a 7.7 magnitude catastrophic earthquake on the three segments of the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
The researchers found that such a disaster would result in 80,000 injuries and 3,500 fatalities. Their analysis also concluded that, due to the extensive damage to critical infrastructure and buildings, 2 million people would seek shelter.
Using damage and loss estimates produced by Amr S. Elnashai, director, who served as the principal investigator, and Lisa J. Cleveland, technical project manager, Mid America Earthquake Center, University of Illinois, the study focused on the impacts to vulnerable populations and the requirements necessary to support the 7.2 million people who would be directly impacted by such an event. Jefferson and Harrald have both academic and practical experience in crisis, disaster, and emergency management. They traveled extensively through the New Madrid Seismic Zone in connection with their research.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone is a 150-mile-long fault system spanning four states in the Central United States. Historic earthquakes in the region, such as the 1811–1812 earthquakes, are believed to have had magnitudes of approximately 8.0 if measured on the Richter scale.
The geology in the Central United States based on soil liquefaction makes earthquake damage in that area much more widespread. There are approximately 12 million people in the high risk area; there are 44 million people in the entire New Madrid Seismic Zone region.
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