Emergency sirens will be howling in Havre Oct. 23, as the local governments hold a test of the sirens in conjunction with a nationwide — and international — earthquake drill.
Montana is joining Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming at 10:23 a.m. that Wednesday in conducting the Great Rocky Mountain ShakeOut, an earthquake drill, with people urged to practice the procedure of drop, cover and hold on.
“Which basically means to get to the floor and seek cover under sturdy furniture and hang on and stay put until the shaking quits,” Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning.
People, schools, businesses and organizations can go online to register for the event and to find out more information about earthquakes and what they should do to prepare for one.
More than 50,000 Montanans already have registered for the event, which is expected to involve more than 21 million people around the world.
Parenteau said the fall test of the sirens is being tied to the earthquake drill, with two 3-minute cycles of the sirens planned. The city 911 center will set off the sirens first, then the Hill County Dispatch Center will conduct the next test.
Montana is one of the most seismically active states in the nation, with numerous serious earthquakes on record in the last century, perhaps the most famous being the 1959 earthquake that created Quake Lake on the Madison River near West Yellowstone, a disaster that also killed 28 people and caused $11 million in damage.
Debbie Smith of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology said most earthquake activity in Montana happens in the western part of the state, but people throughout Big Sky Country should be prepared, including in this part of north-central Montana.
“It could happen,” she said. “It’s not very probable but it could. … It’s a good thing to do the drills.”
Parenteau said that, while no earthquakes have happened in this area in recent history, fault lines do exist in Hill County — as well as a very large volcano, the Bear Paw Mountains, tied into that.
“So, it’s not that it can’t or it hasn’t happened, it’s just that it has been a long time since it has,” he said. “Even though we haven’t had one doesn’t mean we won’t, and it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be aware of what they need to do.”
He said the most important thing in an earthquake is to take cover under something solid and hold on until the shaking stops. Most people killed or injured in earthquakes fall while trying to leave buildings or get hit by material falling, especially by objects like signs, glass or bricks from the exterior when they get out.
“In most cases, you’re best to stay inside and just drop, cover and hold on,” he said.
It also ties into what people need to do whenever a major disaster occurs, he said — people need to be their own first responders.
It could be a minimum of three days before help can get to people, so they need to be ready with supplies including flashlights, food that does not need preparation and battery-powered radios, he said.
“Hopefully, that type of thing doesn’t happen, but knowing some basics and being prepared can go a long ways to making things a lot more comfortable for people,” he said.
Online: The Great Rocky Mountain ShakeOut website: http://shakeout.org/rockymountain