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In observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the Telegraph and Daily Gazette newspapers will not be published January 20. Breaking news and information will be updated on

GUEST COLUMN: Illinois focuses on earthquake preparedness

Families must plan together for disasters

Brian Stewart
Brian Stewart

Recent strong earthquakes in California are prompting calls for earthquake awareness from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. IEMA is also focusing this month on young people learning how to prepare for all emergency situations.

The 7.1- and 6.4-magnitude earthquakes in California and the thousands of aftershocks led the IEMA to recently issue a call on its Facebook page for earthquake awareness and preparedness in Illinois: “The recent earthquakes in southern California serve as a stark reminder that earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world and at any time of day. Teach your family and co-workers the importance of learning how to ‘Drop, Cover and Hold On.’”

IEMA suggests several tips for earthquake preparedness, including assessing your home for safety and being prepared for self-sufficiency for 14 days. More information can be found at The IEMA also created several helpful videos, which can be found at

Southern Illinois is bordered by the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone on the east and the New Madrid Seismic Zone on the west and south. The agency says more than 3,000 earthquakes have been recorded in the New Madrid Seismic Zone since 1974, most of which were so small they were unnoticed. The New Madrid Seismic Zone is the more active of the two, according to a Northwestern University study published in 2010. The largest quakes ever recorded in the continental United States occurred along the New Madrid Seismic Zone during the winter of 1811-1812. Three major quakes ranged from 6.8 to 8.8 magnitude.

Getting youth involved

IEMA is also focusing on preparing young people for emergencies, individually and as part of the family, as a way to instill confidence at a time when panic can easily rise.

The agency suggests the following tips:

• Involve children in the development of a family emergency plan;

• Use real-world events to teach about emergency situations and disasters;

• Use media coverage of current disasters (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, power outages), talk to children about how your family would respond if this happened to you; and

• Discuss where to go, what to do, and how you will ensure their safety during an emergency.

Go to for more information about youth preparedness.

Summer heat relief

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is reminding people that 120 state facilities serve as cooling centers.

Residents who need to escape the high heat and humidity can get relief by visiting one of the 120 state facilities. Cooling centers are located at IDHS offices throughout the state and the seven Illinois Tollway Oases in Chicago. They will be open to the public during regular business hours.

People can search for the nearest cooling center at Additional information about the state’s cooling centers is available by calling the IDHS toll-free hotline at 1-800-843-6154.

State police

Seeking to increase the number of troopers, the Illinois State Police has reinstituted a Fast Track program for current certified police officers.

The Fast Track program is an accelerated 13-week training program for current police officers, as opposed to the typical 26-week class for new cadets. To qualify for the Fast Track program, applicants must be a current certified police officer, a graduate from an accredited law enforcement academy and have at least 2 years of experience while employed full time.

According to ISP, anyone interested in applying for a future Fast Track cadet class must complete the application on the ISP Merit Board’s website at The Fast Track program cadet class is expected to begin in spring 2020.

State Sen. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, represents the 45th District. He can be contacted via email at his website at

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