More than 8.5 million California residents, including USC students, faculty and staff, are expected to drop, cover and hold at 10:20 a.m. today as part of the largest earthquake drill in state history.
The number of anticipated participants in the event indicates an increased awareness of earthquakes and their potential damage, said Mark Benthien, director of communication, education and outreach at the Southern California Earthquake Center.
“This drill will be unique in that so many people will be doing it as a result of informed decision making considering the chances of an earthquake,” Benthien said.
The Great California Shakeout aims to educate participants on what to do when an earthquake occurs and help test and prepare emergency response teams. USC students are encouraged to take part in the drill.
The Great California Shakeout started in 2008 when scientists said Southern California was long overdue for a 9.5-magnitude earthquake, similar to the 9.5-magnitude Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960.
“Research over many decades has confirmed we are long overdue for a big [earthquake] so this drill is more relevant than ever,” Benthien said. “The nature of the landscape that [has] earthquake faults means we wont have a 10.0 — that is impossible, but we can have one that is close.”
USC is located directly above an earthquake fault. The fault, however, only reacts every 500 years according to Benthien.
Navid Nastar, an adjunct assistant professor of civil and structural engineering, said most USC buildings have been designed or retrofitted to satisfy the requirements of applicable building codes.
“The majority of the buildings [at USC] are expected to stay relatively life-safe in the event of a large and unlikely earthquake,” Nastar said.
He said one of the most important things to remember during an earthquake is to remain calm and to stay indoors because the exteriors of buildings normally sustain the most damage.
“The worst thing to do is to panic and rush for exits [because] the falling objects from the façade of a building can be extremely dangerous.” Nastar said.
In the event of an earthquake, USC Fire, Safety and Emergency Planning will station a Building Emergency Response team in each building to ensure the safety of people inside, according to Bill Regensburger, director of USC Fire, Safety and Emergency Planning.
Mike Mahbobian, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said he has mixed feelings about the drill.
“It’s a good way to improve earthquake preparedness, even though most people are likely to respond to their instincts rather than drill instructions,” Mahbobian said.