8.6 million participate in statewide earthquake drill

Californians Take Part In Statewide Earthquake Drill

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Third grade students at William L. Cobb Elementary School take cover under desks as they participate in the "Great California ShakeOut" earthquake drill on October 20, 2011 in San Francisco, California. An estimated 8 million Californians took part in the fourth annual Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill, which occurred just as two small earthquakes shook the Bay Area.

Millions of Californians participated in today’s largest-ever statewide earthquake drill. At 10:20 in the morning, organizers say, millions of Californians dropped to the ground in a one-minute drill that set records for participation.

Organizer Mark Benthien is executive director of Earthquake Country Alliance. He says the main goal was to teach Californians that when the ground starts shaking they should immediately stop what their doing; drop to the ground and hold on.

"Even beyond the 8.6 million people who did the drill there are all the other people who heard about it, saw people modeling the right behavior and hopefully themselves will do the right thing and be safe in the next earthquake,"

He says nearly all of California’s schools participated in the exercise. So did many private businesses, and most hospitals, universities, government agencies.

"Do you think this is going to actually save lives?" he said. "Shakeout has saved more lives I think than just about anything else I’ve done."

Lucy Jones is a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. She’s among the organizers who staged a drill at a Target store in Northridge, just blocks away from the epicenter of Los Angeles’ most damaging earthquake in 1994. She says this type of training is essential for surviving the kind of magnitude 7 or larger quake that’s expected to strike along the San Andreas Fault.

"When you’re making yourself safer and ready to take care of your family, you’re also helping take care of your community. Because if too many of us have to give up and leave, there’s not going to be a Los Angeles left," Jones said.

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