More than 8 million Californians, including nearly 3 million in Los Angeles County, will test their preparedness for a major earthquake in the 2011 Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill at or near 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, according to the Earthquake Country Alliance, made up of public and private agencies throughout the state.
The primary goal of the ShakeOut is to get Californians prepared for major earthquakes.
Drill participation reminds and reinforces correct instinctual actions as an earthquake begins, as well as what to do during a quake and after the shaking stops. Residents are more likely to react quickly and more safely when shaking begins if they have actually practiced how to protect themselves.
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Participating radio and TV stations around the state will interrupt their regular programming around 10:20 a.m. to broadcast a one-minute simulated earthquake, with sound effects and instructions about what to do to prepare and practice for an actual earthquake.
The earthquake drill -– to be broadcast in Spanish as well as English –- will be watched and listened to by millions of residents at home, school and work as they conduct their ShakeOut “drop, cover and hold on” exercises for at least 60 seconds, and learn what to do -– and what not to do -– in the event of an actual earthquake.
There will not be any freeway closures, power outages, or other simulated effects of the hypothetical earthquake on Oct. 20, unless a local government or a utility company specifically notifies the community.
The main goal of "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is to protect one’s self from falling and flying debris and other nonstructural hazards, and to increase the chance of ending up in a survivable void space if the building actually collapses.
Rescuers and disaster experts now know that standing in doorways or running outside a building during a quake can be very dangerous, and instead recommend dropping to the floor and covering up, or ducking under a desk or table if possible.
The space under a sturdy table or desk is likely to remain even if the building collapses; pictures from around the world show tables and desks standing with rubble all around them, and even holding up floors that have collapsed.
The ECA also points out that the so-called “Triangle of Life” method of getting next to a desk or table is actually far more dangerous  than getting under the piece of furniture.
Earthquakes happen daily in California, and scientists are certain a major earthquake will strike California in the next 30 years. The ShakeOut was created in 2008 to help residents prepare and practice how to protect themselves in a temblor, and has since spread to other states and countries, including Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Guam and British Columbia, all of which are also staging ShakeOut drills on Oct. 20.
Anyone in California can participate, from a single individual at home to a major company at the office. Residents may sign up for free at www.ShakeOut.org/register  to be counted in the 2011 ShakeOut drill, get email updates and more useful information.
ShakeOut organizing partners this year include the Earthquake Country Alliance, Cal EMA, Southern California Earthquake Center, FEMA, U.S. Geological Survey, California Earthquake Authority, American Red Cross, State Farm Insurance and many others.
Click here  for a list of the participating ECA associates in Los Angeles County. 
In addition to supporting existing regional alliances and encouraging new ones, ECA welcomes all agencies, businesses, organizations and individuals who are stakeholders in earthquake preparedness to join. Visit www.earthquakecountry.org/alliance/join.html .
For more information, visit www.shakeout.org .