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A History of Earthquakes in Alabama by Birmingham Blogs

While we don’t often associate them with our state, we’re on an active fault line and there is a long history of earthquakes in Alabama. Our area has a long history of earthquakes, dating back to the early 1800s. The state is located in an active seismic zone known as the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which extends from Missouri to Tennessee and is known for producing solid earthquakes.

One of the reasons this region is prone to earthquakes is that it sits on top of the new Madrid fault zone, a series of fault lines that run through the region. These fault lines result from tectonic plates moving and rubbing against each other, which can cause the ground to shake and produce an earthquake.

In addition to the New Madrid Fault, several other fault lines in Alabama can produce earthquakes. These include the East Tennessee Seismic Zone and the Southern Appalachian Seismic Zone.

A large crack in the surface of a sidewalk caused by a seismic event.

As such, it is typical for earthquakes in Alabama, although they are generally not as destructive to our local communities as earthquakes in other parts of the world. This blog will provide more information about earthquakes in AL and how you can ensure that your homes are safe.

Birmingham, Alabama, is located in the southeastern United States, which is generally not an area with a high risk of earthquakes. While earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, the likelihood of an earthquake occurring in Birmingham is low. However, suppose you are concerned about the potential for earthquakes and other natural disasters. In that case, consider purchasing a homeowners insurance policy that includes coverage for these events. This can help protect your home and possessions in an earthquake or other disaster.

A few minor earthquakes have been recorded in the Birmingham, Alabama, area over the years, but they have generally been small and caused little or no damage. The most recent significant earthquake recorded in the Birmingham area was on December 10, 2018, with a magnitude of 2.6. Earthquakes of this size are generally not felt by people and do not cause structural damage.

History of Earthquakes in Alabama

Alabama’s earliest recorded earthquakes occurred on December 16, 1811, in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. This earthquake was one of the strongest earthquakes to ever occur in the United States, with an estimated magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter scale. It was felt over an area of approximately 1.5 million square miles and caused significant damage in parts of Al and other states in the region.

A history of earthquakes in Alabama. This visual table shows events in 1811, 1906, 1916 and 2003.

There have been numerous documented earthquakes in Alabama since the early 18th century, most of which occur in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Some of the more notable earthquakes include the following:

  • The 1906 earthquake had a magnitude of 5.1 and was felt over a large portion of Alabama.
  • The 1916 Irondale earthquake had a magnitude of 5.2 records and was also felt over a large portion of Alabama.
  • The 2003 earthquake, which had a magnitude of 4.6, was centered near the town of Huntsville, Alabama.
  • In 2023, there was an earthquake located in Sylacauga, AL with a magnitude of 2.0.

Even though earthquakes are relatively common in Alabama, they do not typically cause significant damage or loss of life. The most powerful earthquakes to occur in the state have magnitudes of 7.0 or higher, which are considered significant earthquakes. These types of earthquakes are rare and typically only occur in areas with a history of significant earthquakes.

Being Prepared if Earthquake And Other Weather Related Disaster Happens

While Alabama is not considered a high-risk state for earthquakes, it is still essential for residents to be prepared for the possibility of one occurring. This includes having a disaster supply kit and knowing what to do during an earthquake. Some things you should have in your disaster supply kit include water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a radio, a map, and a first aid kit. It is also a good idea to plan what you and your family will do during an earthquake. We all have to be prepared for earthquakes and other weather-related disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and extreme temperatures. These weather disasters are out of human to control, but the loss of lives and properties can be saved by being prepared.

Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon that can occur anywhere in the world, and Alabama is no exception. While the state has a long history of earthquakes, it is not at high risk for them, and with proper preparedness, residents can be ready in the event of one occurring.

This image shows a severely damaged structure and lists several tips to ensure your house can withstand earthquakes.

How To Ensure That Your House Structure Can Withstand Earthquakes?

There are several steps you can take to ensure that the structure of your home or building is built to withstand earthquakes:

Use earthquake-resistant design and construction techniques: There are specific design and construction techniques that can help reduce the damage caused by earthquakes. These include steel or concrete reinforcement, unique foundation systems, and shear walls.

Anchor heavy objects: Ensure to secure heavy objects, such as bookshelves, water heaters, and appliances, to the wall or floor to prevent them from falling during an earthquake.

Install flexible pipes: Use flexible pipes for your plumbing system, as rigid pipes are more likely to break during an earthquake.

Strengthen your chimney: If you have a chimney, ensure it is adequately anchored to the roof and foundation to prevent it from collapsing during an earthquake.

Retrofit your home: If you live in an older home, consider retrofitting it to make it more resistant to earthquakes. This can involve strengthening the foundation, reinforcing walls and ceilings, and installing flexible connectors for gas and water lines.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your home is better prepared to withstand the effects of an earthquake. It is also a good idea to have a disaster supply kit on hand and to know what to do during an earthquake in case one does occur.

What Issues Normally Appear to Your House Structure After an Earthquake?

During an earthquake, the ground shakes and moves, which can cause damage to the structure of a house. The type and extent of damage can vary greatly, depending on the earthquake’s intensity and the house’s design and construction. Some common types of damage that may occur to a house after an earthquake include:

  • Cracks in walls or foundations
  • Damage to chimneys or fireplaces
  • Damage to roofs or eaves
  • Broken windows or doors
  • Damage to plumbing or electrical systems
  • Uneven or sinking floors


In severe earthquakes, houses may collapse completely or be significantly damaged, making them unsafe to live in for years. Even in cases where the damage is not severe, it is essential to have a house inspected by a professional after an earthquake to ensure that it is safe and structurally sound. If the damage is significant, repairs or reconstruction may be necessary. It is also essential to have insurance coverage that includes protection against earthquakes, as this can help to cover the cost of repairs or reconstruction.

Importance of Having Your House Inspected by a Professional After an Earthquake

It is important to inspect your house after an earthquake for several reasons. First and foremost, an inspection can help to determine the extent of any damage that may have occurred and whether the house is safe to live in. Even if the damage appears to be minor, there may be underlying issues that are not immediately visible, such as cracks in the foundation or damage to the house’s structural integrity. A professional inspection can identify these types of issues and help homeowners to have answers to questions about necessary steps to take to make their homes safe and secure.

In addition to safety concerns, an inspection can also help homeowners to understand the full extent of the damage that has occurred and the necessary repairs that will be needed. This information is important for insurance claims, as it can help homeowners to determine the extent of their coverage and the cost of repairs. It can also help homeowners to make informed decisions about whether to repair or rebuild their homes.

Finally, an inspection can help homeowners better understand the risks associated with earthquakes and the steps they can take to protect their homes and families in the future. This can include strengthening the house’s structure, reinforcing foundations and walls, and installing safety features such as earthquake shut-off valves for gas and water lines. By understanding the risks and taking the appropriate precautions, homeowners can help to reduce the likelihood of future damage and ensure the safety of their homes and families.

This image shows 4 important reasons why you should have your home inspected by a professional after an earthquake event in your area.

Insurance Claims Caused by an Earthquake

An insurance claim for damages caused by an earthquake is a request for payment from an insurance company for repairs or replacement of damaged property or possessions. The policyholder must provide evidence of the damage to make a claim, such as photographs or repair estimates and possibly a police or disaster agency report. The insurance company will assess the claim and determine if it is covered under the policy. The policyholder may be required to pay a deductible, a fixed amount that must be paid before the insurance company will cover the remaining costs of the claim. The insurance company will pay for the covered damages up to the policy limits if the claim is approved.

Resources Available to Alabama Residents For Information and Assistance Related to Earthquakes

Several resources are available to Alabama residents for information and assistance related to earthquakes. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is a state agency responsible for coordinating the response to disasters and emergencies, including earthquakes. AEMA provides information and resources on its website, including emergency preparedness guides and tips for responding to earthquakes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also provides information and resources related to earthquakes, including information on how to prepare for and respond to earthquakes and apply for assistance if necessary. In addition, several hotlines and websites are available that provide information on earthquakes and emergency assistance, including the American Red Cross and the United States Geological Survey.

Alabama EMA Contact 1 (205) 280-2200 General Information

FEMA Helpline 1-800-621-3362