Millions across California participate in 'Great Shakeout' earthquake drill (w/video)

LA MIRADA — They dropped, they covered and they held on for the state's annual earthquake drill.

While the ground didn't move, millions were moved to participate Thursday in the simulated disaster drill that began in 2008 in California and has since spread to other states and countries.

The exact number of participants is unknown, but organizers say more than 10 million Californians had signed up to join in the Great Shakeout in addition to 10 million people in other places. Another 5 million people are joining in similar drills this year. Schools and universities account for more than half the participants.

At Biola University in La Mirada, emergency responders held a full-scale exercise to prepare for a potential magnitude-6.7 earthquake. The suburb southeast of Los Angeles was rattled by a magnitude-5.1 earthquake in March.

In the campus drill, students acted out roles as earthquake victims. Health care professionals assessed and treated them, moving the students to red, yellow and green blankets and tarps depending on the severity of their injuries, said Lance Webster, a spokesman for Earthquake Country Alliance, which helps organize the ShakeOut.

Here's more on the event and how Californians can prepare for an earthquake:

DROP, COVER, HOLD ON: The best way for residents to survive an earthquake is not to start running, said Ken Kondo, emergency program manager at the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management. The key is to drop, seek cover under a table and hold on to avoid being thrown or struck by falling debris, he said. Kondo added that residents who ran fleeing their homes in a recent Northern California earthquake injured their feet while running over broken glass. Residents should keep an emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, radio and covered shoes under the bed, he said.

SIMULATED RESPONSE: In past years, organizers have carried out the full-scale exercise at an elementary school, train station and medical center. A university campus presents a distinct challenge because students who hail from less earthquake-prone regions may not know what to do, Kondo said.

MAJOR EARTHQUAKES: California has not suffered a devastating quake since the 1994 Northridge disaster that killed 60 people and injured more than 7,000 in metropolitan Los Angeles. In 1989, a magnitude-6.9 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay region killed 63 people, injured nearly 3,800 and caused up to $10 billion in damage.

INJURIES AND DAMAGE: A magnitude-6.0 earthquake struck Napa Valley earlier this year. One woman suffered a head injury and later died and scores of people were injured. In Southern California, buildings damaged in the March earthquake are still being repaired. Brea's City Hall has undergone $350,000 in repairs while fixes still need to be made to local schools, said Anna Cave, the city's emergency preparedness coordinator.

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