JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Transportation will join more than 2.4 million people on Feb. 7 to participate in the 2013 Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, an earthquake preparation drill. Missouri is one of nine states taking part in the ShakeOut, which is being held on the 201st anniversary of the largest earthquake to ever occur in Missouri. The main focus of the drill is to prepare and practice for a major earthquake.For MoDOT, the ShakeOut offers employees the chance to practice their personal safety plan at all MoDOT work locations, which is important for both office employees and those who work in the field. The ShakeOut will also allow the department to run through its emergency response plan for this type of natural disaster."Earthquakes strike without warning, so the best response is to be informed and prepared," said Rick Bennett, MoDOT traffic liaison engineer. "MoDOT is ready with a plan that anticipates the damage a major earthquake could do to our transportation system, and spells out how we respond."MoDOT's top priority in the event of an earthquake is getting highways open for emergency response, and then to restore traffic as soon as it is safe and possible. "During the ShakeOut, our emergency operations centers around the state will activate and deal with a mock-damage scenario," said Bennett. "We'll also ask our designated bridge inspectors to practice a post-incident bridge inspection."Maintaining Missouri's bridges after an earthquake is a particular concern for the department. Since the 1990s, seismic design elements have been built into most new bridges, such as Cape Girardeau's Bill Emerson Bridge and the new Mississippi River Bridge currently under construction in St. Louis. Other key bridges, such as the double-decked section of Interstate 64 in downtown St. Louis, have been retrofitted.The New Madrid Seismic Zone, centered in southeast Missouri, is the nation's most active earthquake zone east of the Rocky Mountains. At least three of the largest earthquakes in the history of the continental U.S. are believed to have occurred in that area in 1811-1812. The largest of the quakes was centered in the southeast Missouri town of New Madrid and occurred on Feb. 7, 1812. A major New Madrid Seismic Zone earthquake would likely be felt throughout Missouri, as well as nearby states to the south and east. For information on the ShakeOut, go to www.shakeout.org/centralus/index.html. For earthquake preparedness tips from the State Emergency Management Agency, visit http://sema.dps.mo.gov/earthquake_preparedness/.