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Today, 14 Million People Are Going to Have an Earthquake Drill

"Duck, cover, and hold on" is the best way to get through an earthquake

smithsonian.com

Getting through an earthquake is a lot like preparing for nuclear war. Photo: James Vaughan

Fourteen million people living in hazard zones from California, to Alaska, to Italy, to British Columbia, Canada, will take part in a massive earthquake drill today at 10:18 a.m. in their local time zone. It’s part of an annual event known as the Great ShakeOut, now in its fourth year. According to the Associated Press, the drill will see millions of participants practice ducking and covering. In Los Angeles, says the AP, subway and light-rail trains will be slowed down for 15 minutes so that operators can check for “damage.”

Practicing what to do in an earthquake is particularly important, because as the journal Emergency Management says, people’s natural impulse during an earthquake is to do exactly the wrong thing.

What we’ve seen time and time again not only in California but around the world is earthquakes strike without warning, panic sets in and people rely on natural tendencies — get up and run,” said Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority. “It turns out that’s the worst thing you can possibly do if you want to increase your chances of survival.

Emergency Management says there are a few key steps to preparing for an earthquake:

  • Make sure your stuff is secure so it doesn’t get thrown around
  • Keep supplies such as food, water etc. on hand
  • When the shaking starts, don’t flee outside. Instead, drop, cover your head, and hold on to something heavy

Though the Great ShakeOut started in California in 2008, it has since spread to earthquake-prone regions around the world, including the Pacific northwest, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, and others. Earthquake preparedness has been a big topic for the northwestern states in recent years following a recent study into the probability of a large earthquake in the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone. As Oregon State University says, “there is a 40 percent chance of a major earthquake in the Coos Bay, Ore., region during the next 50 years. And that earthquake could approach the intensity of the Tohoku quake that devastated Japan in March of 2011.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Science Behind the Japanese Earthquake
What Caused the Deadly Iranian Earthquakes?
100 Years of Earthquakes On One Gorgeous Map

*This post originally said the event was at 10:18 a.m. on the West coast; it’s happening in each location’s local time at 10:18 a.m.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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