Nearly 500,000 Illinois residents join quake drill

Nearly half a million people in Illinois took part in an earthquake drill that was held Tuesday throughout the central United States.

An emergency announcement over loudspeakers sent schoolchildren dropping and taking cover under desks. A few dozen businesses as well as government offices also took part.

The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut was aimed at helping people practice the “drop, cover and hold on” procedures to be followed during an earthquake. More than 2 million people in nine states were registered to take part.

Illinois authorities were pleased that the number of participants here increased 88 percent from last year.

“We don’t know if we’ll ever have that size of an earthquake,” Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said. “We certainly have a risk, particularly in the southern part of the state. But with as mobile as people are these days, traveling not only around the country but also around the world ... you never know when you might be someplace ... where you experience an earthquake.”

A minor earthquake with a magnitude of 2.4 sent small tremors across Chicago’s northern suburbs on Jan. 30.

Scientists estimate there’s a 25 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake in the central U.S. in the next 50 years, according to the Central United States Earthquake Consortium.

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