If an earthquake were to strike right now, would you know what to do? During the Great California ShakeOut, millions across the state practiced how to drop, cover and hold on to stay safe.

More than 600,000 people in Riverside County signed up to participate in Thursday’s Great California ShakeOut drill — including more than 400,000 area school children — to practice their earthquake readiness.

(Graphics courtesy ShakeOut.org)

“Individually, we’ll each quite likely experience an earthquake and need to protect ourselves,” Mark Benthien, global coordinator for Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills, said. “We won’t be able to, in that moment, have other people telling us what to do, we need to be able to react immediately, and that’s why this is practiced, of course, in schools, but really, it must be by everyone.”

Across the state, more than 9.6 million people registered to participate in the drill, according to ShakeOut.org.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes per year — though the vast majority are so small they are not felt — it’s important that people know what to do before the shaking begins.

“You want to practice before an earthquake,” Shane Reichardt, public information officer for the Riverside County Emergency Management Department, said. “Look at where you go, where you travel, your office, and know what their emergency procedures are. If you’re in your home, have a plan for all of your family, secure loose items and make sure that everything that you can secure is secured.”

Reichardt used his own home as an example of the type of decor that can quickly become a hazard in the event of an earthquake.

“I have a hallway where all the bedrooms are, and early on when I bought the house, I put up pictures, and so I had all of these framed pictures with glass,” he said. “And then I started looking at it from an earthquake preparedness standpoint, and if all of those frames came off the wall, now I’ve got a hallway full of glass that my family is going to have to try to get through if they need to get out of the house.”

Beyond that, Reichardt said people should have emergency kits in their homes and in their cars. He also said people should have a change of clothes, snacks and water available in their vehicles in the event that they get trapped for long periods of time.

“We saw this with Northridge,” he said in reference to the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that struck the San Fernando Valley in 1994. “People were stranded, and even if the roadways weren’t damaged, the traffic was just at a standstill for dozens of hours. I worked in public safety, and it took me 12 hours to get from Pasadena to the valley.”

Reichardt also encouraged residents to sign up to get notifications from Alert RivCo and to create a family communication plan, which the emergency management district has a template for on its website here.

And for those still wondering what they should do in the event of an earthquake:

“It’s three things: drop, cover and hold on,” Benthien said. “For most people, you’re going to drop to the ground quickly, cover your head and neck, and if there’s a table or desk nearby, you’re going to crawl under it and then hold on so that if it starts to move, you can move with it.”

If you find yourself outside, you should move to a clear area devoid of power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles and other potential hazards and then drop, cover and hold on. If you’re on the beach, follow the same rules as you would for being outside and quickly move to higher land once the shaking stops. If you’re driving, you should pull over, stop, set the parking brake and stay in your vehicle until the shaking stops and then you can carefully proceed. 
More information about how to keep yourself safe during an earthquake can be found here.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.