When you think of earthquakes, west coast states like California usually come to mind. So should folks here in Mississippi be concerned?

The truth is that several Mississippi counties are at risk for a severe earthquake in the future. That's why governor Haley Barbour made January 26th through 30th, Mississippi's Earthquake Awareness Week.

There are only illustrations of perhaps the worst series of earthquakes to hit the New Madrid seismic zone back in 1811 and 1812. That zone consists of a series of faults that cross the Mississippi and Ohio rivers; stretching 40 miles wide and 200 miles long.

It affects parts of seven states including Mississippi.

MEMA Director Mike Womack said, "In the northern part of the state are really at much greater risk, certainly Grenada and further north is substantial."

The strongest recorded earthquake in Mississippi happened in 1931 with a magnitude of 4.6 centered in Tallahatchie County.

Womack said, "Back then it toppled some chimneys and did structural damage in Charleston which is pretty far south from Memphis."

Womack says as you get close to Memphis, scientists estimates there is a 25 to 40-percent chance of a moderate earthquake which means around a 6 on the scale in the next 50 years.

Womack said, "A six is gonna cause quite a bit of damage to, we think, to utilities, such as water and sewer and gas pipe lines; damage in a home, but not to the extent that most structures would fall apart."

So, what do you do? Certainly not panic. Womack says it is very unlikely the ground will open up and swallow you. He says the real danger is things falling on you.

"Well, this is a threat that does exist; exists throughout the state, though it's more of a problem in North Mississippi, but a lot of the things we need to do for earthquake awareness, we ought to do for any type disaster", said Womack.

That means keeping emergency water and food on hand as well as an emergency radio, batteries and flashlights, just as you would for an ice storm or hurricane.

Here are some safety tips during an earthquake offered by MEMA: Pick a safe place in every room of your home, such as under a sturdy table or desk and away from things that could fall on you. Wait in a safe place until the shaking stops. If you are in a car, stay put with your seatbelt fastened. And if you are outside, stay outside and away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines.