LOS ANGELES — Californians ducked under desks and tables in schools, offices and businesses Thursday in an annual earthquake preparedness drill.
Organizers said more than 8 1/2 million people signed up to participate in the 2011 Great California ShakeOut.
The majority practiced the "drop, cover and hold on" technique recommended during actual shaking. They included an estimated 650,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said LAUSD spokesman Tom Waldman.
At a Target store in Northridge, employees and customers dropped to the floor and took cover when the mock quake was announced at 10:20 a.m.
The goal is to train people to effectively protect themselves as the earth is shaking, avoiding actions such as running outside, which exposes people to debris and glass falling from the exterior walls of buildings. Experts also hope to dispel erroneous notions such as trying to seek safety by standing in a doorway.
In addition to the drop drill, emergency responders and hospitals staged more elaborate exercises including search-and-rescue missions and mass casualty drills.
The exercise, now in its fourth year, is meant to help residents prepare for a major quake. Though California is the most seismically active state in the Lower 48, the state has not experienced a metropolitan-scale disaster since the 1994 Northridge quake that killed 72 people, injured thousands and caused $25 billion in damage to the Los Angeles region.
Authorities urged individuals and households to stock a first-aid kit and make sure they have enough food and water to last at least 72 hours.