LOS ANGELES, June 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. scientists, elected officials and experts gathered here on Wednesday to plan for a massive earthquake drill scheduled for later this year.
Meeting at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), participants warned that California residents, businesses and schools need to be prepared for a major earthquake by taking part in the drill.
To help prepare for a possible quake, the drill, codenamed "The Great Southern California Shakeout," will be held in November, featuring a week of events.
The quake drill will be the largest in U.S. history, in which firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel will also take part.
"An enormous earthquake is definitely in our future," said Lucy Jones, chief scientist of the U.S. Geological Survey Multi-Hazards Project, which recently detailed the consequences of a major quake along the San Andreas Fault near Los Angeles.
"(The) Shakeout is a chance for all of us to practice together what we will do when the earthquake happens, and getting ready now is better than just waiting for the earthquake to take place," he said.
According to the quake study, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake would rattle 10 million residents, about 50,000 of whom could be injured. An estimated 1,800 people could be killed and more than 300,000 buildings could be damaged.
Older buildings that are not retrofitted to be made earthquake-proof would be destroyed, which could result in 33 billion U.S. dollars' worth of damage, according to the survey.
Scientists believe the major drill will be a time for Californians to prepare themselves for an earthquake by stocking up on supplies and drafting disaster plans.
"The earthquake itself will be sideways motion -- the western part of Southern California is going to go north compared to the rest of North America, and that gives off shaking as one of its effects," Jones told reporters. "And it's the shaking wave that travels from the fault out to where your building is that does most of the damage."
"This is our reality," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "A major earthquake will come, and it is our responsibility to be prepared for the economic and social aftershocks. An early investment in preparedness can have a priceless return after a disaster."
Experts said residents and businesses should begin preparing themselves by storing extra water, purchasing fire extinguishers and making disaster-response plans.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said a major disaster would stretch resources, meaning people would likely have to help themselves in the hours after a massive quake.
"The projection of this model is 1,600 fires starting simultaneously," he said. "That's going to overwhelm virtually all of the fire engines in the Southern California area."
Paul Schultz of the American Red Cross told ABC7 that people must "take care of themselves first, because that's the first line of defense."
The Great Southern California Shakeout will also feature an international conference on earthquake policy, an earthquake rally organized by the Art Center College of Design and a variety of other local activities.
"Most of us think we know what an earthquake is like, but we do not," said Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center. "Our experience lies with an earthquake like the 1994 Northridge earthquake, a magnitude 6.7 which was much smaller and more localized in its effects," he said.