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Yukon prepares for earthquakes with annual drill

Thousands of Yukoners took cover Thursday, as part of an annual drill to prepare for earthquakes. A seismologist says the territory fits the profile to have the 'big one.'

Territory has seen about 11 earthquakes since 1940 of magnitude 5.7 or larger

Yukon College students were in chemistry class when the school's earthquake drill rang and they crawled under their desks. It was part of an annual exercise in Yukon to prepare for earthquakes. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

At 10:22 a.m. Thursday, thousands of Yukoners ducked and took cover.

It was part of the Great Yukon Shake Out — an annual drill to prepare for earthquakes.

Schools, hospitals and businesses all took part in the drill, which last year saw 10,000 Yukoners participate.

This student crawled under her desk in chemistry class when Yukon College rang the earthquake drill Thursday morning. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
In Whitehorse, Yukon College students were working on the periodic table in chemistry class when the school's earthquake drill rang, and they crawled under their desks.

Michael Templeton, with the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, says the drills are like testing your smoke alarm — it's all about being prepared if an earthquake hits.

"Most of them, 99 per cent, are not felt and nobody even knows about them," Templeton says.

Michael Templeton, with the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization, likens the drills to testing a smoke alarm - it's all about being prepared. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
But it's about minimizing impact, he adds. "We have felt them in the last couple of years."

Yukon and parts of the N.W.T. are at higher risk than other parts of Canada for earthquakes, says Allison Bent, a seismologist with Earthquakes Canada.

"Parts of the Yukon would be considered to have a moderately high earthquake hazard," she says.

"Very small earthquakes happen frequently, probably every day," Bent says. "The majority of them are in the Richardson and Mackenzie Mountains region."

The 'big one' coming?

Yukon has seen about 11 earthquakes since 1940 of magnitude 5.7 or larger.

'Parts of the Yukon would be considered to have a moderately high earthquake hazard,' says Allison Bent, a seismologist with Earthquakes Canada. (submitted)
Though Bent says nothing is a guarantee, Yukon does fit the profile for a big earthquake.

"Any place that's had [high-magnitude earthquakes] in the past, we can only assume that at some point in the future it will happen again.

"Certainly a magnitude 7 is possible," Bent says. "Doesn't mean it's probable or that it's imminent. Just that this is something that could happen."

Organizers of the drill say whatever the odds, the possibility of an earthquake is reason enough to prepare.

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