When it comes to the threat of damage and chaos from disasters in Kansas, earthquakes rank nearly at the bottom of the state’s list of concerns.
Earthquakes rank 21st out of 22 potential hazards listed in the official state response plan by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. Only fog is a lower threat than earthquakes, though the misty shrouds are more frequently found in Kansas.
The recent spate of earthquakes in Oklahoma was felt throughout southern Kansas and as far north as the Kansas City metro area with little or no damage reported.
Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, state adjutant general, said the state’s frequent tornadoes and flooding – the top two hazards in the state – give Kansas ample opportunity to train, equip and plan for the types of damage and injuries that could be caused by strong seismic activity.
“Many of the functions are the same,” Tafanelli said. “There’s no prevention to it.”
According to the state response plan, Kansas ranks 45th among states in the amount of damage caused by earthquakes each year, with the Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area ranking 35th among 35 major metro areas in the country.
Kansas is bisected by the Humboldt fault zone, which runs from north of Oklahoma City into southern Nebraska. It passes east of Manhattan, where the biggest earthquakes ever recorded in the state occurred. There have been more than 210 earthquakes felt in Kansas since 1867, with the strongest coming in April 1867, when a magnitude 5.5 quake hit near Wamego, causing structural damage in Manhattan and nearby communities.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said residents worried about protecting their homes and other belongings need to purchase a rider for their policies, because most insurance plans don’t cover earthquakes.
That includes homeowner and automobile coverage, she said.
Tafanelli said the earthquakes were a good reminder to Kansas residents about the importance of taking their own steps to be prepared. That includes having a home disaster plan and preparedness kit with food, water, flashlights, batteries, medications, first-aid supplies and copies of any documents that may be necessary.
“We haven’t had the New Madrid strike for almost 200 years but it should serve as a reminder of what we need to do in Kansas,” he said. “Those same basic kits and plans apply. That’s the part that our citizens can control.”
The New Madrid fault is located in southeast Missouri and is known for being active in 1811 and 1812. Tafanelli said Kansas has been in planning with Missouri and other states in the event the faults awaken. Kansas would likely be asked to shelter survivors fleeing the damage or provide other response teams, he said.
Angee Morgan, deputy director of KDEM, said while Kansas has taken a so-called “all-hazards” approach to preparing for disasters, it’s more of a matter of preparing to manage consequences.
“That could be power failures, transportation, evacuations,” Morgan said. “It doesn’t matter what the hazard, you are going to have a consequence.”
Kansas ranks the risk of hazards using a variety of factors, including how frequent a disaster is likely to occur – such as annual winter storms or tornadoes – or unknown acts of terrorism, radiological release or landslides. Morgan said that planning, preparedness and mitigation can reduce the impact of a disaster on property and loss of life.
“But when you have Mother Nature involved, you can’t factor out the unknown,” she said.