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Illinois Test Runs Earthquake Response

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(Duration: 7:46)

Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, during an Illinois Senate Energy Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, March 31, 2011, in Springfield, Ill.

Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, during an Illinois Senate Energy Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol Thursday, March 31, 2011, in Springfield, Ill. (Seth Perlman/AP)

Emergency responders from Illinois and nearby states are spending this week preparing for the possibility of a natural disaster that sounds out-of-place for the Midwest -  an earthquake.

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken said it's one of the largest such exercises conducted.

He said a major earthquake in the New Madrid or Wabash Valley seismic zones, such as one that shook Illinois and Missouri more than 200 years ago, would be catastrophic.

"Any warning is almost impossible to achieve," Monken said. "Most likely this will be a completely no notice event, that will completely surprise everybody involved."

At least initially, Monken said large aftershocks would be expected.

He said it is important for families to prepare with a disaster kit and emergency plan. Monken said the biggest danger in an earthquake is falling debris. So instead of getting out of a building, it is important to get down to the cover and hold onto something sturdy.

Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri, as well as Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and federal emergency responders, are taking part in this week's drills.