Great California ShakeOut earthquake-preparation drill. (41590)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Students scampered under their desks, court and government workers evacuated buildings and police and fire crews went on high alert across the Southland today as part of the sixth annual “Great California ShakeOut” earthquake-preparation drill.

More than 3.2 million people in Los Angeles County and more than 931,000 in Orange County registered to take part in the drill, which took place at 10:17 a.m. and encouraged participants to “drop, cover and hold on” as if the area was being shook by a magnitude-7.8 or larger quake.

About 9.5 million people registered to take part in the drill statewide, according to

At 10:17 a.m., participants were told to “drop” to the ground, take “cover” under a desk, table or other sturdy surface and “hold on” for 60 seconds, as if a major earthquake were occurring.

Participants were also asked to look around during the drill and envision what might occur during an actual quake — what objects might fall, what damage is a shaker likely to cause, and will there be an escape route.

Some government buildings were evacuated as part of the drill, including the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles. Students and staff also evacuated buildings at Cal State Los Angeles.

Students across the Los Angeles Unified School District dropped under their desks, and police and fire crews tested their readiness to respond to a major emergency.

Under the quake scenario, a tectonic shift would produce waves of movement for hundreds of miles, over four minutes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some 2,000 people would die, tens of thousands would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from the catastrophe, which would have 50 times the intensity of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake.

Hundreds of aftershocks would follow, a few of them nearly as big as the original event, according to the USGS.

Californians should be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours following an earthquake or other major disaster. That includes having a first-aid kit, medications, food and enough water for each member of a household to drink one gallon per day for at least 72 hours, according to local and state officials.

Homeowners and renters should also know how to turn off the gas in their house or apartment in case of leaks.