Public Safety

Thousands of San Diegans Simulated Earthquake Response

Some 9.3 million people, mostly in California, took part in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill at 10:18 a.m. Thursday (10/18), at schools, homes, businesses, and some public areas, including the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.

By comparison, 8.6 million people participated in the ShakeOut last year.  The statewide drill is coordinated by Earthquake Country Alliance, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

At the Santa Fe Depot, the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services and the American Red Cross San Diego/Imperial Counties invited passengers to consider what they would do if an earthquake struck while they were on a train.

Experts agree that the safest thing to do in an earthquake is to drop, cover and hold on whenever possible. During intense shaking it is often difficult or impossible to remain standing or walk. People should drop to the ground to avoid being knocked down; crawl under a desk or table if one is nearby; and cover their head with one arm and hold onto the table with the other to keep it from moving away.

If outdoors, people should get down and move away from buildings, bridges, trees, and utility wires, and sit and cover their head until the shaking stops.  

One reason Thursday’s demonstration was held on a train was to emphasize that no one knows when or where an earthquake will strike. If it happened while you were on a train, there might not be any tables to get under, or not enough for everyone.

Amtrak conductor Laura Drogan guided riders in a demonstration at 10:18 a.m. on a business class car. Several people tried to seek cover under small tables; others crouched down by their seats, covered their head and held onto the seat or table leg. They covered their heads because an open overhead compartment might contain bags or suitcases that could fall out during the shaking.

The Alliance and the California Emergency Management Agency printed special earthquake commuter- tip wallet cards to pass out to people using the train stations in San Diego County.

In San Diego County, 693,713 people were registered to take part in the largest drill in U.S. history, according to the ShakeOut website.  These figures may increase if more people registered today. In San Diego, more than half of those participants were students at K-12 schools and staff at school district offices with 467,816 registered to participate.  Students and staff at colleges and universities registered 78,400 people to participate.


Yvette Urrea Moe is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact