ILLINOIS (WCIA) — You may not think of earthquakes in Illinois, but Illinois actually sits on two seismic zones, including a zone that is home to the most powerful earthquakes ever to occur in the continental United States.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) said the earthquakes occurred during the winter of 1811-12 in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ). Experts estimate that if the same series of earthquakes happened today it would cause $60 to $80 billion worth of damage in today’s dollars.

IEMA said Illinois is actually at risk from two major seismic zones: the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone (WVSZ) located in southeastern Illinois and the NMSZ that includes portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee. They report that there is a 25% to 40% chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake in the NMSZ seismic zone during a 50-year time span.

More than 3,000 earthquakes have been recorded in the NMSZ since network monitoring of seismic activity began in 1974. IEMA said none of these earthquakes exceeded 5.0 magnitude.

The largest earthquake in recent years happened in Mt. Carmel, Ill. in the WVSZ area registering at a 5.4 magnitude in April 2008.

“Illinois sits between the New Madrid Fault Zone and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone,” said IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “I want everyone to understand the risks and know what to do if we have a significant earthquake.”

Earthquake preparedness

February is Earthquake Awareness Month and IEMA is sharing tips on how to stay safe if an earthquake should happen in Illinois.

In the event of an earthquake in Illinois, IEMA advises everyone to:

  • Drop down to the floor,
  • Take cover under a sturdy desk, table, or other similar furniture,
  • Hold on to that object until the shaking ends.

“Check your personal preparedness kits, review your family AND work emergency plans,” said Tate-Nadeau. “Update your emergency contact information and designate a safe space where you can shelter during an earthquake.”

IEMA is also encouraging schools, workplaces, and others to sign up for the international ShakeOut Day on Oct. 19 to reinforce the information promoted in February. Learn more about the Great ShakeOut Drill and register participation at

One other thing to consider, homeowners insurance.

“Standard homeowners insurance policies generally do not cover damage due to earthquakes,” said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Dana Popish Severinghaus. “However, Illinois consumers can purchase earthquake coverage as an endorsement to their existing homeowner’s policy. Like other types of insurance, costs for coverage will vary depending on the home’s structure, age, location, and the possible risk of an earthquake occurring in the area.”

Homeowners should discuss more with their insurance agent on adding earthquake insurance.

More earthquake-related information can be found here.