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Californians stop routines for ShakeOut earthquake drill

October 18, 2012 | 11:31 am

Millions of Californians in schools, offices and hospitals paused their routines at 10:18 a.m. Thursday to participate in an earthquake drill billed as the largest such safety exercise in U.S. history.

In the east portal lobby of Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones and Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Richard Katz ducked and covered under a large red table set up for the event.

"Hope doesn't save lives, preparation does," Villaraigosa said. "Take a moment to remember: The power's out, alarms are sounding, your phone doesn't work, roads are inaccessible. This is a moment you have to plan for."

Joanne Currie, 52, was walking into Union Station with her husband when dozens of Red Cross volunteers, Metro staff, city officials and passersby suddenly dropped to the ground in front of media cameras and covered their heads for the 100-second drill.

"Isn't this funny!" she said, before listening to the instructions blasting over the speakers and dropping to the ground.

"You know, we don't have an earthquake procedure for our staff," she said to her husband.

The two own a restaurant, and this was a good reminder to take precautions and know what to do when an earthquake happens, she said.

Other passersby, coffee cups and briefcases in hand, hurried past, pausing momentarily to gawk at the media throng before rushing on. Many said they were running late or they would have stopped and participated.

Officials emphasized the importance of preparation for the inevitable Big One -- having a rations kit of food and water in your car and home, talking to your children, knowing to pull your car over to the side of the road if driving when an earthquake strikes.

In Los Angeles, this year's Great California ShakeOut focused on commuters, officials said. At 10:18 a.m., all Metro trains were scheduled to slow down to restrictive speeds as part of the earthquake drill.

"Public transportation can be a really good option during earthquakes,' said USGS seismologist Lucy Jones. "Earthquake shaking doubles at the earth's surface, so being underground is actually a very safe place to be during an earthquake."

A demonstration by Metro staff of an earthquake evacuation from a rail car was scheduled. Information booths with earthquake safety information will be available at the earthquake preparedness fair in Union Station until 4 p.m.


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-- Rosanna Xia at Union Station