Shivela Middle School students and faculty were among 9.3 million Californians who took part Thursday morning in the Great ShakeOut.
Preparing for "the big one" was the goal of a statewide earthquake drill, during which Riverside County government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations stopped everything for a minute so participants could "drop, cover and hold on."
More than 600,000 people countywide registered to take part in the fifth annual "Great California ShakeOut," which took place at 10:18 a.m. Statewide, there were 9.3 million registered participants, compared to 8.6 million last year, according to ShakeOut.org.
The objective is to raise awareness about precautions to take during a 7.8-magnitude or larger quake along the southernmost area of the San Andreas fault.
"Such a powerful earthquake could devastate much of Southern California," said David Oglesby, a geophysics professor at UC Riverside. "Because we live in earthquake country, everyone...needs to know what to do when the ground starts shaking.
"We need to know that trying to run outside or going to an interior doorway are both dangerous actions," he said. "Instead, we should drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops, and then carefully go outside to a location at a safe distance, away from debris that may fall from buildings."
Shivela held its drill at 9:15 a.m., shortly after the school bell rang at 9 a.m. A voice came over the loud speaker, announcing the campus had just experienced an earthquake. Students were asked to "duck, cover and hold," before evacuating to a large blacktop area.
Murrieta Valley Unified School District's Director of School Safety, Wayne Sakamoto, was at the campus Thursday observing.
"After the shaking teachers begin to assess their room for safety, and administration and maintenance also begin looking around for safety issues. If it is deemed the buildings are unsafe in any way, then an evacuation would occur," Sakamoto said.
"For the drill purposes they were evacuated as if the buildings would be collapsing due to structural damage," he said. "Then the teachers have to be accountable for the kids; usually they have a few kids they pull out and the teachers have to see if they have a missing kid."
The school has designated teams that must work together during the drill. In the event of a real disaster, the same protocol would be followed, Sakamoto said.
The teams are: first aid, search and rescue, student support, parent reunification, operations, damage assessment, communication, security, and student supervision, Shivela Guidance Technician Sheryl Alvarado told Patch.
Several students and staff donned bright orange hats and vests to signify they were part of a team during the 45-minute drill.
"The operations team is the principals and assistant principals," Alvardo said."Then you have your communication team which is the director between different teams."
The student support team is responsible for identifying students in need of assistance, Alvarado said.
An incident command center was set up.
In another area, staff manned a table where parents would come to sign up their children.
City and county of Riverside government offices participated in the ShakeOut, along with offices in at least 15 municipalities.
Under the 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.
—City News Service contributed to this report