By Jay Alan

At some point during my day I can usually see the scaffolding atop the landmark National Cathedral here in Washington, D.C.  The iconic structure suffered millions of dollars damage from the August earthquake.  That, along with the visible cracks in some walls that I see at DHS headquarters, are daily reminders that disaster can strike anywhere at anytime.

We all know and preach the doctrine of preparedness, which done consistently and properly, leads to saving lives and property and brings about a quicker, more robust recovery.  Building this type of resiliency and knowledge takes time, and there’s not a moment to waste.

This effort takes another great step forward on February 7.  The Great Central U.S. Shakeout will occur at 10:15am CST, with (as of this writing) 1.7 million people in nine states practicing the ‘duck, cover and hold’ earthquake drill.

We began the Shakeout concept in Southern California back in 2008 as a means to try to engage the public at a comprehensive level to get ready for ‘the big one’.  Tying the public awareness campaign “Shakeout” to an actual earthquake exercise for first responders called “Golden Guardian” created the critical mass to start something big.  Indeed, that first event not only included more than five thousand first responders in what was then the country’s largest ever full-scale exercise, it also boasted more than five million people who ducked, covered and held on.  Then came expansion statewide, then other states and the Canadian Province of British Columbia, and now even New Zealand is taking part.  All told, the 2010 Shakeout included 8.6 million participants in California and 9.5 million in total.

It’s a simple concept and act.  “Drop, cover and hold on” will save lives.  Preparing for the worst often brings out the best, as we continue to see in the Shakeout series.   So on February 7th, encourage everyone in the New Madrid quake zone to take part.  It will empower even more people to be prepared and will help as we continue to try to build a stronger, more resilient nation.