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The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill: Millions Take Part

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Los Angeles, CA -

(FOX 11 / AP) Hoping to survive an earthquake, many Californians and people in earthquake prone regions around the world were gearing up for a major earthquake drill.

More than 24 million people, including 9 ½ million in California, have signed up to duck under their desks at 10:17 a.m. local time Thursday, cover their heads and hold on to something sturdy.

The exercise allows first responders to dust off their emergency response plans and transportation departments to practice slowing down trains in the event of real shaking.

The Great ShakeOut was first held in California in 2008 and participation has since spread around the globe. This year, Japan, Canada, Italy and Guam planned to join the U.S. in the drill.

"Everyone everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake," lead organizer Mark Benthien said.

Participation has exceeded last year's level despite a government shutdown that prevented the Federal Emergency Management Agency from doing last-minute promotion of the drill on social media sites, Benthien said.

Southern California has not experienced a devastating quake since the 1994 Northridge disaster that killed 60 people and injured more than 7,000.

In recent weeks, parts of the world have been rattled by powerful quakes, including a magnitude-7.1 jolt that killed more than 100 people in the Philippines and damaged historic churches.

Drill organizers said this year's focus is on fires that may be sparked by ruptured utility lines after a quake.

In Los Angeles, firefighters will practice evacuating students pretending to be injured or trapped by falling debris. They will also put out a fake fire that erupts in a classroom at an elementary school in the Echo Park neighborhood.

Several countries, including Japan and Mexico, have an alert system that gives a few precious seconds of warning to residents after a large quake. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a law directing state emergency officials to find ways to fund a statewide quake early warning system by 2016.

From Hal Eisner:

If you've never been in a shake simulator let me tell you what it feels like. It's a little like riding a mechanical bull at a country-western club. Instead of just the bull moving all over the place the entire fake living room in the van is jumping every which way. It's a 15 second fake quake, but a real one doesn't have to be that long to be deadly and damaging.  The Northridge Earthquake, which was almost 20 years ago, was only  7 seconds long.

Today has been The Great Shakeout Day. Millions participating at 10:17am by acting as if they were in a quake. The time 10:17 was chosen because today is October 17th (10/17).

Events all over included a couple of messages. One was plan for a quake. Those who deal with these sort of things, like seismologist Lucy Jones from USGS say it's not IF we are going to have one. it's WHEN.  When shaking starts DROP, COVER and HOLD ONto something like the leg of a desk. If you are near a desk get under it.

The goal of rolling up like a little ball under a desk is to make yourself a small target. In a quake everything from tissue boxes to kitchen knives can become missiles. When the 1994 Northridge quake hit at 4:30am I popped out of bed and got a karate chop across my leg from a book case. I passed out. A neighbor brought me to. I was lucky. In that quake dozens were killed or injured. Some died from direct hits others from heart attacks.

Earthquakes are not to be taken lightly. Ever person I spoke with at a special event this morning marking Shakeout Day said the same thing – have a plan! And, remember to DROP, COVER and HOLD ON!

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