ShakeOut participants are asked to Drop, Cover, and Hold On as if a major earthquake were occurring.

6.9 Quake Punctuates Drill

The earthquake in the Gulf of California occurred at 11:53 a.m. local time Thursday, close to the 10:21 a.m. Pacific time Great California ShakeOut.

Thursday's Great California ShakeOut at 10:21 a.m. Pacific time gave the state's residents a chance to practice their response to an earthquake. Hundreds of miles south at 11:53 a.m. local time, a 6.9 magnitude quake occurred in the Gulf of California and was felt strongly in six nearby cities in western Mexico, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS locates more than 30,000 earthquakes annually around the world, with 25 of them on average causing significant damage, injuries, or deaths. The agency recently announced it will include estimated economic loss and casualty information in the earthquake alerts it sends out. Shortly after a major quake, the automated PAGER (Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response) system estimates the shaking distribution, the number of people and settlements exposed to severe shaking, and the range of possible fatalities and economic losses, using a color-coded alert scheme: no response needed (green); local or regional (yellow), national (orange), or international (red).

"The two recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are good indications that earthquake magnitude alone is not a reliable predictor of human and economic loss," USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt said. "The smaller magnitude-7.0 Haiti earthquake caused significantly more damage and loss of life than did the larger magnitude-8.8 Chile earthquake. PAGER is designed to rapidly and automatically take into account the differences in proximity to populated areas, depth of the earthquake, and building standards that are so critical in determining the human and economic toll so that emergency responders can act promptly and accordingly."

More than 7 million residents joined businesses and agencies to participate in the annual Great California ShakeOut, which asks Californians to perform earthquake drills on the 142nd anniversary of the last major quake to shake the Hayward fault, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 21, 1868.

BART, the Bay Area transit system was scheduled to stop all of its trains for about a minute to thank riders and the public for supporting a $1.2 billion 2004 BART earthquake safety bond measure that is now being used to strengthen the system against the maximum credible earthquake. The halt of trains also reminded customers why BART stops its service immediately after any quake. All five of BART's train lines either cross or run fairly near the Hayward fault, according to the agency.

The federal Ready.gov earthquake preparedness information for businesses and the public is available here, and FEMA's QuakeSmart.org program, which began in 2008, explains how to mitigate earthquake damage and be well prepared.

ShakeOut participants were asked to do these:

1. Drop to the ground, take Cover under a table or desk, and Hold On to it as if a major earthquake were happening (stay down for at least 60 seconds). Practice now so you will immediately protect yourself during earthquakes.

2. While still under the table, or wherever you are, look around and imagine what would happen in a major earthquake. What would fall on you or others? What would be damaged? What would life be like after? What will you do before the actual earthquake happens to reduce losses and quickly recover?

3. (Optional) Practice what you will do after the shaking stops.

4. After your drill is complete, have discussions about what was learned and incorporate these lessons into your disaster plan.

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