News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by

Californians 'drop, cover and hold on' for the Shakeout earthquake drill

KPCC's Erika Aguilar finds cover under a dining room table at her home practicing the Shakeout earthquake drill,
KPCC's Erika Aguilar finds cover under a dining room table at her home practicing the Shakeout earthquake drill, "Drop, Cover and Hold on."
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Listen to story

Download this story 4MB

More than nine million Californians will participate Thursday in what is likely the largest earthquake drill in the world. The Great Shakeout begins at 10:18 a.m. That's when people all over the state will duck beneath some type of cover to practice for the next major earthquake.

The drill's supposed to drive home this message: “drop, cover and hold on.” Emergency experts say it is a myth to look for a doorway to stand under. Balling up under a table or desk can make you less of a target for sliding furniture, flying glass and falling items like books and wall hangings.

The first Shakeout drill began Wednesday evening in Guam because of the time zone differences. Then it traveled through Central Asia to Italy to Puerto Rico and then to the southeastern U.S. This year is the first time Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia will participate: They experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake a year ago in August.

“The idea is that you get everybody to do something that everyone can see,” said Mark Benthien with the Southern California Earthquake Center. “You’re not just getting information but you"re doing something. You’re seeing other people take actions. That has been shown by research to actually make people want to be more prepared.”

There’s a ton of things you can do to get prepared. And, as Benthien said, “You can always do more to be prepared.”

Here’s a checklist to get you started on building an earthquake emergency survival kit:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for three days (including pets)

  • Three days worth of food for everyone at home (including pets)

  • Non-electronic can opener

  • A First Aid kit (with Band-Aids, gauze, tape, antiseptic ointment, etc.)

  • Portable radio or hand-crank radio

  • Flashlights and batteries

  • Extra house and car keys

  • Any specific health medications that are needed (diabetes, blood pressure, etc.)

  • Blankets or sleeping bags

  • Matches or a lighter
  • A 2008 study by a working group of California earthquake scientists and engineers forecast that the Golden State has a 99.7-percent likelihood of experiencing a magnitude 6.7 or stronger earthquake in the next 25 years or so.

    Also new this year, earthquake preparedness experts are trying to reach commuters. At Union Station, the 60-second earthquake drill announcement will play over the loudspeakers. Unlike storms, earthquakes can happen with very little notice. People may not be at home where they've assembled emergency kits or rehearsed escape plans with family members.

    “Many people are prepared and of course many people are not,” said Benthien.

    At 10:18 a.m., wherever you may be, emergency officials want people to think about where you would “drop, cover and hold on” if an earthquake shook at that moment.

    Below are some tips from about what to do and where to duck for cover in the various places you may be:

    In bed: If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has injured people who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.

    In a high-rise: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler or alarm systems activate.

    In a store: When Shaking starts, Drop Cover and Hold On. A shopping cart or clothing racks can provide some protection. If you must move to get away from heavy items on high shelves, drop to the ground first and crawl only the shortest distance necessary. Whenever you enter any
    retail store, take a moment to look around: What is above and around you that could move or fall during an earthquake? Then use your best judgment to stay safe.

    Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs,
    buildings, vehicles, and other hazards.

    Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses,
    bridges, power lines, signs and other potential hazards. Stay inside
    the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on
    the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

    In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat or drop to the floor between rows and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

    Near the shore: Drop, Cover, and Hold On until the shaking stops. If severe shaking lasts twenty seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground as a Tsunami might have been generated by the earthquake. Move inland two miles or to land that is at least 100 feet above sea level immediately. Don’t wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other

    Below a dam: Dams can fail during a major earthquake.
    Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, you should know flood- zone
    information and have an evacuation plan.

    For people with disabilities who are unable to drop to the floor, experts advise getting away from windows or large items that can fall on you, and protect your head and neck as much as possible. If you’re in a wheelchair, lock the wheels. Grab a pillow, book or anything available to protect your head and neck.

    If you have pets, animal services remind you to keep an emergency pack for each of your pets, too. Get the animal microchipped and find someone who could take care of the pet while you recover from any damage or injuries.