900K San Diegans participated in earthquake drill

SAN DIEGO - More than 900,000 San Diego County residents participated in Thursday's Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill to test their level of preparedness for a major temblor.

The 10th annual drill took place at 10:18 a.m. At that time, millions of people across California will "drop" to the ground, take "cover" under a desk, table or other sturdy surface and "hold on" for 60 seconds, as if a major earthquake were occurring.

Reasons to participate in Great California ShakeOut

Employees of the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services, San Diego County Fire and CalFire San Diego encouraged residents and visitors to register for the drill at shakeout.org.

"Even if you cannot participate in the drill on Thursday, you can still register and practice your response at home with your family, when it is more convenient to you," said Stephen Rea, the Office of Emergency Services assistant director. "While you're at it, review your disaster plan and check emergency supplies."

Drills was held across the state and nationwide, as well as in countries including Japan, New Zealand and Canada. Overall, more than 59 million people have registered to take part in the drill.

"By learning what to do during an earthquake and practicing at work, school and home, it gives everyone a better chance of survival and improves recovery time," said CalFire San Diego Unit Chief Tony Meacham. "First responders may be unable to get to households in a large-scale disaster and that's why people need to have basic supplies such as food and water at home."

During an actual earthquake, people who are outdoors should find a clear spot away from trees, buildings and power lines, then drop, cover and hold on. People who are driving should pull over to a clear area, stop and stay seated with seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. When the quake ends, motorists should proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that may have been damaged.

ShakeOut organizers note that many Californians have not experienced a damaging earthquake, such as young people or people who have recently moved to the state. They also warned that while the San Andreas fault could generate a large-scale earthquakes, up to magnitude-8, there are many other active faults in the region that can produce quakes on par with the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

"Numerous earthquake faults crisscross Southern California and no one within the area resides more than 10 miles from an active fault," according to ShakeOut.org. "In addition to damage caused directly by ground shaking and related ground failure, other hazards such as fires can easily start during and shortly after an earthquake."

According to the USGS, some 2,000 people would die, tens of thousands would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from a magnitude-7.8 or larger quake, which would have 50 times the intensity of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake. Hundreds of aftershocks would follow, a few of them nearly as big as the original event, according to the USGS.

Californians should be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours following an earthquake or other major disaster, officials say. That includes having a first-aid kit, medications, food and enough water for each member of a household to drink one gallon per day for at least 72 hours, according to local and state officials.

Homeowners and renters should also know how to turn off the gas in their house or apartment in case of leaks.