Earthquake potential along New Madrid Fault one driver of new shelter agreements from Red Cross

The original community center building dates to 1911 and was the first school in Merriam.
The community center building in Merriam would be one site for an emergency shelter.

The possibility of a devastating earthquake along the New Madrid Fault in southeast Missouri is one of the potential disaster scenarios that is the driver for renewing agreements for emergency shelters that would be outside the damage zone.

Merriam approved a new agreement with the American Red Cross this week to use the Irene B. French Community Center in case of a disaster. City staff said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had requested that the Red Cross update and standardize its shelter agreements. A similar agreement to use the Sylvester Powell Community Center in Mission is under review by the city.

In Merriam, the city has had a disaster shelter agreement with the Red Cross since 2000. The community center has not been activated for disaster relief, but has been used as a relief shelter during local weather events.

The prospect of an earthquake along the 150-mile New Madrid Fault has the potential to affect residents in the five states where it extends: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. A spokesperson at the Kansas City office of the Red Cross said people left homeless from a damaging quake in Missouri would be moving either west or south. Merriam staff said Missouri west of Columbia would like be out of the damage zone, which means that’s where displaced persons would need to be sheltered.

The agreement calls for the community center for provide a facility manager and food service manager. The city would be reimbursed for expenses and the Red Cross would provide all the materials and supplies to operate the shelter.

A large apartment fire or winter storms that strand motorists on the Interstate are other events that could potentially trigger a shelter activation, according to the Red Cross.

A 3.5 magnitude earthquake occurred along the fault in August and a number of quakes have been felt in the last year in Indiana and Illinois. Quakes estimated at 8.0 magnitude occurred in early 1812. It had four of the largest earthquakes in North American history. Since 1812, the fault has seen quakes measuring 6.6 and 5.4.