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Statewide earthquake drill, ShakeOut, planned Thursday morning

October 17, 2012 | 12:04 pm

Statewide earthquake drill, ShakeOut

More than 9.3 million Californians are expected to pause their routines Thursday at 10:18 a.m. to participate in what is being billed as the “largest earthquake safety drill in U.S. history.”

Across the state in schools, offices, hospitals and for the first time, Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, people will be asked to drop, cover and hold on during the annual Great California ShakeOut drill. Los Angeles Metro trains will also slow down at 10:18 a.m. as if a real earthquake occurred.

“This is the first time we’re focusing on commuters for a ShakeOut event,” said John Bwarie, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey. “There’s about 250,000 just in Southern California, based on numbers from 2008, that commute across the San Andreas Fault.”

In Union Station, where more than 75,000 people pass through each day, a recording will broadcast over the loudspeaker asking commuters and passersby to drop to the ground, take cover underneath something sturdy and hold on until the shaking stops.

Metro trains across the county will slow down to restricted speeds -- slow enough to stop quickly and safely if there are obstructions on the track -- until all train operators on the line report back that the line is clear.

Trains won't be stopped, and the entire inspection should take about 15 minutes, said Marc Littman, a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman.

“This is part of our emergency procedure, and the simulation drill is good training for us,” Littman said. “The whole process is during off-peak hours, so there will be minimal impact on service."

The earthquake drills have grown steadily since they began in Southern California in 2008. Thursday's drill also will be held in British Columbia, Guam, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.

Alaska, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Washington, Southern Italy (led by U.S. Navy bases) and much of the Southeast U.S. (after the 2011 earthquake in Virginia) will also join the drill for the first time.

“In California, the event is really highlighting that the big one is coming, not if but when,” Bwarie said. “And people should be prepared. That’s the message on Thursday.”

Throughout the day, additional earthquake preparedness and safety information will be available at booths in Union Station's east portal lobby.

The Great California ShakeOut is organized by the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA), a statewide public-private-community partnership. Participants can register for Thursday's drill at www.shakeout.org.


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Photo: Robert W. Mackay, chief of a humanitarian assistance branch of the U.S. Northern Command, a division of the Defense Department, dives under a shopping cart at Target in Northridge during last year's earthquake drill for the Great California ShakeOut. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times