More than 400,000 Illinois residents have registered to take part in a national earthquake drill on or around Oct. 17.
Illinois will join 36 states and several countries in the voluntary effort to raise awareness and rehearse a response in the Great U.S. ShakeOut drill, coordinated locally by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
The drill is officially set for 10:17 a.m. Oct. 17, when participants are asked to drop to the floor, take cover under furniture and hold on for a minute until anticipated danger passes.
Clarendon Hills Middle School is among the nine schools participating for the second year in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181. Other west suburban participants include St. John of the Cross School in Western Springs, Pleasantdale Elementary District 107, the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ office in Westchester and the village of Franklin Park.
“We’ll be getting under our desks, grabbing on and holding on so we would have something over our heads should an earthquake occur and any debris falls from above,” said CHMS Principal Griffin Sonntag.
Sonntag said he received no feedback after the school took part previously in the drill, but he knows the question on everybody’s mind.
“Why would we do this in Illinois when there are earthquakes only out in California,” he said. “It’s important people become aware of the fault lines in Illinois and Missouri and how they can impact us up here.”
Illinois straddles two major seismic zones. The Wabash Valley Zone runs between southeastern Illinois and southwestern Indiana. The New Madrid Seismic Zone follows the Mississippi River valley and includes parts of Illinois and seven other states.
Since 1974, more than 3,000 quakes have been recorded along the New Madrid Zone, according to the IEMA. The most powerful earthquake in recent years measured a 5.4 on the Richter scale in Mount Carmel, Ill. in 2008 in the Wabash Valley Zone.
“Not only do we have the risk of earthquakes here in Illinois, but people travel so much these days around the U.S. and other counties,” said Patti Thompson, IEMA communications manager. “It’s likely someone from Illinois could be there when something happens.”
Thompson said participation is expected to swell in the remaining days before the earthquake drill. Organizations and individuals may register at www.shakeout.org, and drills may be conducted up to two weeks before or after Oct. 17.
Thompson said Illinois fire and police departments, hospitals and other organizations drill regularly for a variety of disasters, but a catastrophic earthquake would present additional challenges to be addressed in a special drill in the spring.