(AP) Get ready to rumble. Millions in the United States and several countries are set to participate in an earthquake preparedness drill Thursday.
Dubbed the "Great ShakeOut," homeowners, schoolchildren and office workers across the West and Southeast will practice dropping to the ground, covering their heads and holding on to something sturdy - a technique that experts say minimizes injuries during strong shaking. Residents in British Columbia, Italy, Puerto Rico and Guam also signed up for the exercise.
Organizers estimated some 14 million people, including 9.3 million in California, will participate. Newcomers include Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, where a magnitude-5.8 hit last year that was felt along the East Coast.
In Los Angeles, commuters at Union Station will be asked to duck and take cover. Subways and light-rail trains will slow down so that operators can visually inspect the tracks - a process that's expected to take 15 minutes. In an actual quake, trains can be stopped. Transportation officials also planned to show the public tips to safely evacuate a train.
Southern California held the first safety drill in 2008 based on a fictional magnitude-7.8 event on the southern San Andreas Fault. The entire state participated the following year and the exercise has since spread around the world.
"It's not looking at earthquakes as doom and gloom," said organizer Mark Benthien. "It's all about what we're going to do as a community to be prepared so that when there's an earthquake, we'll get back on our feet and recover."
Southern California has not experienced a seismic disaster since the 1994 Northridge quake, which killed 72 people and caused $25 billion in damage to the Los Angeles region.