Calif. drops, covers for annual ShakeOut

EXPOSITION PARK, Calif. It's a drill that teaches of all us what to do when an earthquake hits: Drop, cover and hold on.

Nearly 7 million people took part in the ShakeOut, making it the largest disaster drill in U.S. history.

Organizers used a machine to simulate a 6.8-magnitude earthquake to recreate what Southern Californians felt during the Northridge earthquake in January of 1984.

The drill is to bring awareness that California is earthquake country, and residents need to be prepared.

Can you imagine what a 7.8 earthquake would feel like in your neighborhood? Check out what it would look like:

The /*Los Angeles Unified School District*/ and other local school districts took part in the drill at 10:15 a.m.

"Drop, cover and hold on is really the thing to do to protect yourself no matter where you're at in the case of an earthquake," said Mark Benthien, /*Southern California Earthquake Center*/.

"For me, this is just something I need to know, and people don't need to panic -- unless something falls on them, of course," said elementary student Gabriela Lu.

There are simple things you can do to reduce the risk of injury and damage.

"Most people haven't [prepared]," said Brian Lowe, /*Ready America*/. "You need to take the time to go around your home, or your office for that matter, and identify the potential hazards. For instance, tall, top-heavy pieces of furniture, TVs on TV stands that haven't been secured, even breakables and collectibles on a shelf, because they can fly off and become a projectile and hit you in the eye, that will damage you."

According to the /*U.S. Geological Survey*/, the agency that monitors seismic activity, these drills will help all of us be ready when a major quake hits.

"It's absolutely 'when,' not 'if,'" said Dr. Lucy Jones, USGS. "We have hundreds of faults. We average three earthquakes of at least magnitude 5 in California every year. One of them is going to come and be near us eventually. Right now, we're in a pretty quiet time, ever since the Northridge and Landers earthquakes, we've been in a pretty quiet time. It's not going to stay that way. On the long-term average, we need to see more earthquakes."

Disaster preparedness experts say there are things you can do now, before the next quake hits that will put you on more solid footing.

"If the ground does start to shake you don't want to run around saying, 'What do I do,' you want to be saying 'I know what to do. I'm ready for this,'" said Lisa Klink, community disaster educator, American Red Cros..

Klink says there are three steps to becoming Red Cross-ready.

Make a plan. "Make sure you have an evacuation plan, plan where to meet, have an out of state contact everybody can get a hold of," said Klink.

Get a kit. "[Have] an ER kit that you can grab as you're heading out the door that has things like food, water and first aid kit," said Klink.

Be prepared. "Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher, change batteries in smoke detectors, how to shut off gas," said Klink.

Klink says to pay special attention to assembling an emergency or disaster kit, which includes first-aid items and other essentials like food, water, toiletries, a flashlight and extra batteries.

Red Cross officials say you want to make copies of important documents like your driver's license, medical insurance papers, medical records, and also contact information. You want to put it all in a waterproof plastic bag and don't forget to put cash inside as well, because if there's a disaster, power goes out and ATMs don't work.

And that could last for a few days after a disaster, so experts say at least initially, you may have to rely only on yourself. Since you can't prevent or predict an earthquake, it's always better to be prepared.

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