Earthquake Drill: Millions Will Participate In Tremor Simulation Exercise

An enormous earthquake drill involving millions of people will take place in several parts of the world on Thursday, October 19. Starting at exactly 10:19 a.m. local time, the exercise will help people in earthquake-prone areas learn how to react when a major tremor happens.

The earthquake drill, with an estimated 20 million participants, will last approximately one minute. Working with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Southern California Earthquake Center created the “Great Shakeout” in 2008. The event has been held every year since.

Around the world, people involved in the exercise will gather in schools, colleges, government buildings, and private businesses. Once the earthquake drill starts, they will get down on the floor and cover their heads or hold on tight to a strong, stable table or desk, if available. Even though the exercise is scheduled to be one minute, experts say large earthquakes can last longer and encourage participants to stay involved in the drill longer.

“We know that in the shakeout scenario with a 7.8 earthquake, up to four minutes of shaking could be felt,” said Jason Ballmann with the Southern California Earthquake Center, as reported by NBC News.

One objective of the earthquake drill is to train participants that it is safer to remain in one place than it is to run during a severe tremor. Additionally, participants will be urged to count during the exercise. The simple act of counting not only calms a person down but also helps determine the magnitude of the tremor. Seismologists warn that an earthquake longer than 30 seconds will likely be followed by a tsunami, so people living near a coast need to be prepared for that as well.

Drills simulating an earthquake happen every year around the world.

Of the 20 million people involved in the earthquake drill, just over 10 million participants will be in California. With numerous fault lines running through the state, experts predict a massive and potentially deadly quake in the region is evitable.

The USGS conducted a study three years ago to forecast the probability of a large earthquake striking Southern California. The results predicted a 72 percent chance a 6.7-magnitude or higher tremor would strike the region before the year 2043.

“That’s a pretty high number,” noted David Schwartz, a USGS geologist, according to the NBC News report. “The biggest concern is the Hayward fault because it sits geographically in the center of the Bay Area. It’s the most densely populated. There are 2 million people directly on top of it. When it has an earthquake, it will affect the 8 million people or so living in the greater Bay Area.”

Other government agencies, including the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will help coordinate earthquake drills across the U.S. Even though California is famous for the number of annual tremors, geologists warn that an earthquake can strike just about anywhere in the U.S.

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