LOS ANGELES, Oct. 15, 2009 (Xinhua News Agency) -- California kicked off its first statewide earthquake drill on Thursday in a bid to boost preparations for "the Big One", which seismology experts predict will eventually hit the region.
About seven million people -- including 2.5 million in Los Angeles County -- took part in the drill, dubbed the Great California ShakeOut, organizers said.
The exercise began at 10:15 a.m., with the warning to "drop, cover and hold on", which is the recommended procedure in an earthquake.
According to the procedure, people should quickly get under a sturdy table to avoid being hit by falling objects, or get on the ground next to an interior wall and cover their head and neck with their arms. People should also face away from windows and mirrors, and stay indoors instead of running out in panic.
Organizers of the drill called on everyone to prepare for an earthquake by stockpiling food, water, medicines, and some cash; securing heavy objects to walls; learning first aid; and creating a plan for reuniting with family members, among others.
After an earthquake, people are advised to remain calm; check for damage; learn in advance what to do about fire, leaking gas, electrical dangers and chemical spills; and brace for aftershocks.
Millions of residents, schools, businesses, government institutions, nonprofit organizations, religious groups and others registered online to take part in the drill at shakeout.org, where additional information about earthquake preparedness is also available.
In several hospitals, volunteers portraying quake injury victims were placed on stretchers and triaged according to the severity of their supposed injuries. Local police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the American Red Cross participated in the drill.
The drill was based on scientists' predictions of what would occur during and after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. They estimated such an event would kill 1,800 people, injure 50,000 more, and cause 200 billion dollars in damages, leaving the region to experience long-lasting social and economic consequences.
A 2008 report estimated there is a 50 percent chance of a magnitude-7.8 or greater earthquake somewhere in California anytime in the next 30 years.
"If you want to live through the earthquake, what you need to do is practice because the more you practice, the more you are likely to do the things that will keep you safe, and improve your chances of survival," said Lucy Jones, chief scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which helped organize the drill.
"The ShakeOut drill helps people and organizations practice how to be safe during earthquakes and also how to improve their preparedness," said Marh Benthien of the Earthquake County Alliance.
An earthquake drill was held in Southern California last year, with the participation of nearly 5.5 million people. The drill expanded statewide this year.