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ShakeOut rattles SCV

California stages massive earthquake drill

Posted: October 15, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

During the mock disaster exercise, school children took shelter under work tables, along with scientists and government officials up and down California as the state practiced how to survive a major earthquake.

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Workers dropped for cover and emergency personnel rolled out to inspect mock damage Thursday as Santa Clarita Valley residents joined in California's Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.

Santa Clarita councilwoman Laurene Weste counted down on the radio to the 10:15 a.m. start of the statewide drill, signaling city officials, local students and others around the valley to drop, find cover and hold on, said city Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Donna Nuzzi.

"Your normal response during an earthquake is just to flee," she said. "We want you to hold onto something secure. ... It sounds very simplistic, but you would be surprised how many people forget."

Students at SCV schools ducked under desks just before teachers and other staff members led them onto playgrounds and fields for check-in.

Officials at Saugus Union and Newhall school districts said the ShakeOut was in addition to the districts' other earthquake and fire drills throughout the year.

"You never know when something is going to happen," said Keith Karzin, director of safety and risk management for Saugus Union School District. "We just want to make sure we're ready so we can get through it OK."

The William S. Hart Union High School District postponed its earthquake drill to 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 29, said district spokeswoman Pat Willett.

Emergency personnel went beyond the drop and cover to practice response procedures.

Sheriff's deputies in 16 patrol cars and on two motorcycles rolled out to "critical facilities" - which included hospitals, schools, chemical laboratories, bridges and other locations - to report on safety conditions, said Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Mark Hershey.

The deputies finished their sweep in about 40 minutes, which is about 10 minutes quicker than last year's drill, he said.

"I think they were probably just more organized this year," Hershey said, adding that deputies planned strategies on which locations to check first.

"If we practice it enough, (then) when it really happens, the reflex action is built in(to) our hands."

Firefighters also practiced scanning the valley for injured victims and major safety hazards.

They first dropped for cover and then quickly hauled equipment out of their stations, officials said.

"They move out their equipment so they can access it in case there's any structural damage to the fire station," said Stephanie English, a community services liaison for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The firefighters also searched local facilities such as nursing homes, high-rise buildings or buildings prone to gas explosions, English said.

Medical personnel triaged mock victims at the University of Southern California Health Sciences Campus and the Los Angeles County Fire Department practiced an evacuation of its headquarters and transfer of command to battalion chiefs using their vehicle radios as the primary means of radio dispatch.

Organizers said the statewide Great California ShakeOut was the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history.

The first drill, held last year, focused on Southern California and drew 5.5 million participants.

Santa Clarita is one of 100 cities in the state to participate in the drill, Nuzzi said.

"It's important that (we) do it yearly and more often," she said. "Practice is important."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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