Big quake drill aims to prep residents

PASADENA In China the damage is staggering: tens of thousands dead, entire neighborhoods destroyed. What if an earthquake like that hit in Southern California?

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"Prepare yourself for shaking that is bigger and lasts longer than anything that has ever been experienced by anyone in Southern Calfiornia," said Dr. Kenneth Hudnut, United States Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicist.

Scientists are putting together the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history. It's called the Great California Shakeout, simulating a 7.8-magnitude temblor hitting Southern California. In this scenario it would start at the southern end of the San Andreas Fault, rupture northward at 2 miles per second, and send shockwaves in all directions.

"The earthquake itself will be sideways motion; the western part of Southern California is going to go north, compared to the rest of North America, and that gives off shaking as one of its effects, and it's the shaking waves that travel from the fault out to where your building is, that does most of the damage," said Dr. Lucile Jones, USGS.

Immediately after the quake hits, 300,000 buildings would be damaged. Forty-five-thousand would be a total loss. Some older buildings made of brick and wood would collapse.

"The projection of this model is 1,600 simultaneous fires starting," said L.A. County Fire Dept. Chief P. Michael Freeman. "That's going to overwhelm virtually all of the fire engines in the Southern California area."

Officials don't want to scare people, but they say this should get everyone prepared. Families should get food, water and emergency supplies. It could be days before help gets to you and officials say 90 percent of Southern Californians simply aren't ready

"So it's incredibly helpful if people can take care of themselves first, because that's the first line of defense," said Paul Schulz, chief executive officer of The American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles.

The good news is Southern California has some of the best fire and rescue equipment in the world. All will be tested when this earthquake drill takes place on November 13, 2008.


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