Balboa Park, state officials set for ‘ShakeOut’ drill

Morning visitors to Balboa Park museums will get a first-hand demonstration of earthquake safety techniques today during a statewide earthquake drill, the “Great California ShakeOut.”

At 10:15 a.m., bells from the Museum of Man’s California Tower will signal the start of the drill, which will simulate a 7.8-magnitude earthquake originating from the southernmost portion of the San Andreas Fault.

Museum employees and visitors will be instructed to drop, cover and hold on if inside, or, if outside, to find a safe place away from trees, power lines or heavy objects that could topple over. They will then be evacuated from the museums.

Schools and other public agencies will also take part in the drill.

About 480,000 people have signed up to participate in the ShakeOut around San Diego County, said Ron Lane of the county Office of Emergency Services.

“We want people to practice how to drop, cover and hold on during the drill by quickly getting under a heavy table or desk to avoid falling objects,’ Lane said. ‘It is important for people to participate in the drill because, in an emergency, people react according to what they have practiced.’

Roughly 5.5 million people participated in the Nov. 13, 2008, ShakeOut drill, and organizers expect about 7 million participants throughout California this year.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 2,000 people would die, some 50,000 would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from the catastrophic quake, 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.

Some 300 scientists, engineers, economists, emergency management experts and others examined the consequences of a quake on the scale described, determining that the effects on infrastructure, transportation and public welfare would last for years, if not decades.

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, and keep sturdy shoes near their beds or in their cars.