Preschool children at the Beach Cities Child Development Center were among the millions of Southern California residents and people statewide who dropped under benches, tables or other hard surfaces for 60 seconds as part of the fifth annual "Great California Shakeout" drill to highlight the need to be prepared for a major earthquake.
Nearly 2.9 million people in Los Angeles County registered to take part in the event, which took place at 10:18 a.m. and asked people to respond as if a magnitude-7.8 or larger quake along the southernmost area of the San Andreas fault began rocking the area.
At the Beach Cities Child Development Center in Redondo Beach, which hosts children under the age of six, no age is too early to start teaching earthquake procedures, according to staff.
"This is, for a lot of these children, their first exposure (to earthquake drills)," said Zohra Haji, the executive director at the child development center. "It is hard, but if you repeatedly tell them the same thing over and over, then it starts to make sense to them," she said.
During Thursday morning's drill, Haji and her staff ensured the children knew how to cover their head and how to follow teachers into the school yard for a role call after an "all clear" call. Many of the kids seemed to enjoy the experience while also shooting curious looks at each other as they were told to duck under tables.
"They have fun with it," said Haji.
Haji also said that the child development center is prepared for any emergency and even has a text message alert system that sends out messages to parents letting them know their children are safe and where to find them.
Elsewhere in the Southland, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stressed the need to be prepared for a large-scale earthquake.
"Hope doesn't save lives. Preparation does," Villaraigosa said during a news conference at Union Station, where he and other officials crawled under a desk -- adhering to the advice to "drop, cover and hold on" during a quake.
Across the entire state, participants were also advised to look around during the drill and envision what might be taking place during an actual quake -- what objects might be falling, what damage could be occurring, and will there be a way to escape the area afterward.
Under a quake scenario, a tectonic shift would produce waves of movement for hundreds of miles over four minutes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some 2,000 people would die, tens of thousands would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from the catastrophe, which would have 50 times the intensity of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake.
Hundreds of aftershocks would follow, a few of them nearly as big as the original event, according to the USGS.
Californians should be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours following an earthquake or other major disaster. That includes having a first- aid kit, medications, food and enough water for each member of a household to drink one gallon per day for at least 72 hours, according to local and state officials.
Homeowners and renters should also know how to turn off the gas in their house or apartment in case of leaks.