Earthquake Insight Field Trip FAQs

Or, What Did I Get Myself Into?

What is this thing? This field trip is hosted by the US Geological Survey (USGS), through Earthquake Insight LLC. It is part of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) [pronounced "NEE hurp"]. The overall purpose is to educate key leaders in the private sector and public policy (you) and enlist them in reducing earthquake risk. This year, it is a shoulder event to the 2012 National Earthquake Conference (April 11-13) and the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) (April 10-14), in Memphis, Tenn.

Why should I go? Geoscientists have long recognized the very real risk of earthquakes in the central US.  And engineers know how to design structures to resist earthquakes.  But unfortunately, a lot of new development still does not consider earthquake hazards.  Sites are selected and projects are built without really considering earthquakes.  As a result, much of the built environment is at high risk from earthquakes.  This field trip will help you recognize this gap between what we know about earthquakes and what we do about them – and take action to close it.  Lives and property are at stake.

Earthquake Insight Field Trip

Where are we going?  This field trip starts and ends in Memphis, Tenn.  Along the way we will make about a half-dozen stops in northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri and western Tennessee.  This itinerary will focus on field evidence of past earthquakes on the New Madrid fault system.  We will also talk about other diffuse, earthquake source zones in Illinois, Indiana, western Kentucky, and other parts of the central US.  We’ll also discuss some of the engineering challenges unique to central US earthquake country.

What is on the agenda? 

  1. Travel through urban neighborhoods that have a lot of high-risk structures;
  2. Discussion of an engineered retrofit to a Mississippi River bridge;
  3. A look at developed areas that will shake harder than other areas due to the underlying geology;
  4. A visit to a site in northeast Arkansas that shows evidence of liquefaction from the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes;
  5. A visit to New Madrid, Mo., to see where “the river ran backwards” and to soak up the seismic ambiance of the place;
  6. A look at the scarp created during the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes – still visible today;
  7. A visit to Reelfoot Lake, which also was created during the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquake series; and
  8. Discussions of industrial operations; markets; infrastructure; resources; assets; and logistics, transportation, and communication sectors exposed to high earthquake risk that is generally unrecognized

Geoscientists and engineers who are doing this work will present their story to the group.  Many will travel with the group and will be available for informal discussions.  By the end of the trip, participants will be able to spot and better understand earthquake evidence, earthquake hazards as well as earthquake risks – and the tools available to manage them.

Earthquake Insight Field Trip

Is this the first field trip of its kind?  This is the eighth Earthquake Insight Field Trip since June 2005.  The full report on the first one can be viewed at .  There are about 225 alumni of past Earthquake Insight Field Trips from all over the country – Texas, Ohio, California, New York, Minnesota, Georgia, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Colorado, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois. Participants have represented State Farm, Pfizer, FEMA, FM Global, the Missouri State Senate, Odyssey Re, Dillard’s, AEP River Ops, Country Financial, US Army, Growmark, Wal-Mart, Chubb, US Department of Transportation, California Department of Insurance, AmerenUE, AON, AG Edwards, ABC/Disney, General Re, Time-Warner, Edward Jones, The Republic Group, Shelter Insurance, St. Paul/Travelers, Enbridge, Swiss Re, SAIC, CenterPoint Energy, US Social Security Administration, and many others.  We haven’t lost anyone yet.

How much does it cost?  The cost to each participant is $95.  This covers only a part of the actual costs of development, personnel, logistics, and consumables.  The US Geological Survey generously subsidizes much of the actual cost. 

Who’s in charge?  Phyllis Steckel, a registered geologist, is the field trip leader.  Phyllis received a grant from the US Geological Survey for proactive outreach on earthquake risk and how to manage that risk.  She has been involved in earthquake risk reduction in the central US for over 25 years.

Who else is going?   Earthquake Insight Field Trips are especially for non-scientists, such as business leaders, elected officials, infrastructure managers, media, finance and equity professionals, risk managers, portfolio managers, lenders, business continuity planners, and others in similar responsible positions.  In 2012, the Earthquake Insight Field Trip seized the opportunity to become a shoulder event to the joint meeting of the National Earthquake Conference (NEC) and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s (EERI’s) Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tenn.  Attendees of the 2012 NEC and the EERI Annual Meeting are especially welcome to attend.

Earthquake Insight Field Trip

Who will we meet?  Along the way, we’ll meet with expert geoscientists, engineers, and others who are working on the earthquake risk issue in the central US.  Some are involved in research, some are in the public sector, and some are in private practice.  Some will accompany the group on the field trip.  There will be plenty of time for informal, one-on-one discussions.

Earthquake Insight Field Trip

What can I expect?  Remember, this is a field trip, so we’ll be in the field for part of it – and no whining, please.  If it rains, it will be wet.  If it doesn’t rain, it will be dry.  It may be cold or windy or warm or muggy or clear and crisp – so check the forecast before you leave home and be prepared.  At some of the stops we may walk some distance.  If mobility is an issue, please contact Phyllis (636-239-4013) as soon as possible.  This route includes rural areas that have somewhat limited urban comforts – but we’ll tough it out.

What about transportation?  Transportation is provided round-trip from Memphis, Tenn.  We will travel on an air-conditioned, chartered motor coach equipped with an intercom and a restroom.  There will be an escort vehicle that accompanies the motor coach, which is available if someone must leave the field trip due to illness or other emergency. 

How about lodging and meals?   You must make your own hotel reservation, and the cost of the hotel is not included in your field-trip registration.  A block of rooms has been reserved at The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, Tenn.  (Visit  This hotel room block is part of the National Earthquake Conference and the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI).  Of course, you are welcome to stay at any hotel that works for you – The Peabody is not required lodging.

Lunch on Tuesday, April 10, is included in the field trip registration.  Juice, snacks, and soft drinks will be available at breaks, and bottled water will be available at all times.  If a special diet is required, please contact Phyllis (636-239-4013) as soon as possible.  If you have significant diet constraints – such as strict kosher, vegan, or severe allergies – you may want to bring a few staples to tide you over just in case. 

What should I wear?  Wear comfortable, closed shoes and comfortable long pants.  The dress code is informal:  jeans and tennies are fine.  Dress for the weather.  Geoscientists are among the worlds worst-dressed – so you probably will look better than your hosts in just about anything you’ve got.

What to bring?  Definitely bring cameras and extra batteries.  Muted cell phones are welcome during the breaks, although coverage will be marginal in some areas.  At some of the field sites, there may be insects, mud, poison oak, bright sun, dust, and allergens.  Bring a day pack with rain gear, sunscreen, sunglasses, and allergy meds.  Bring lots of business cards.  And most importantly, please don’t forget your generous good humor!

Earthquake Insight Field Trip

What should I expect?  Expect camaraderie; new contacts; personal growth; insight; perspective; and knock-your-socks-off relevant, usable information.  You may get ideas to solve a problem you didn’t know you had.  And you may even enjoy yourself.

When do we meet?  The group will meet at The Peabody Hotel about 7:00 am on Tuesday, April 10.  After brief introductions, we’ll board the chartered coach.  There will be several setting-the-stage presentations as we depart Memphis and travel to the first stop.  This will provide background information that will help you get the most out of the rest of the trip. 

When do we get back?  Depending on afternoon traffic in Memphis, we should be back to The Peabody Hotel by late afternoon on Tuesday, April 10.

What about registration?  As you can imagine, there is a lot of planning for each Earthquake Insight Field Trip.   As a result, your registration and seat assignment will be confirmed when your payment is received – not in the order of initial inquiry.  When you first let Phyllis Steckel know you will participate, your name will be “penciled in” on the seating roster.  However, those who are “penciled in” may lose their seats to others who inquire later, but deliver payment sooner.  The only way to confirm your seat is for your payment to be received.  Mail your payment to:  Earthquake Insight LLC; PO Box 2002; Washington, MO 63090.  In case your payment is received after all seats have been assigned and the trip is sold out, your check will be returned in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, credit/debit cards and purchase orders are not accepted.  Payment must be made by check.