DISASTER: Up to 21 million Southland residents asked to take part in quake rehearsal.
By Dana Bartholomew
PASADENA -- The magnitude 7.8 earthquake rips for three minutes across Southern California, sparking 1,600 fires, damaging 300,000 buildings and causing $213 billion in economic losses.
When the dust settles, 1,800 residents lie dead among the rubble while 50,000 more suffer serious injuries.
But the hypothetical temblor, slated to occur Nov. 13, is only a drill. Repeat: The Great Southern California ShakeOut will only be the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history.
"Nothing we've ever experienced will compare to what will happen in this great earthquake -- alarms sounding, dogs barking, people screaming, then all of a sudden the power goes out, cellular phones stop working, roads become inaccessible, then the fires start," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa explained during the drill event launch Wednesday. "This all sounds like a scene from a movie, but it's not. It's real life. The effects can be devastating.
"We kick off The Great Southern California ShakeOut campaign ... to educate residents how to prevent disaster from becoming a catastrophe."
The ShakeOut campaign was rolled out before a hall of 500 government officials, emergency responders and community leaders at the California Institute of Technology.
'Drop, cover, hold on'
Up to 21 million residents in eight counties across the Southland are being asked to prepare for a likely jolt on the San Andreas Fault. The ShakeOut drill will begin at 10 a.m. Nov. 13 and invite residents to "drop, cover and hold on."
At the same time, thousands of firefighters, police and emergency responders from Ventura to Imperial counties will share in an unprecedented, weeklong Golden Guardian Emergency Response event. That week, Los Angeles will host an international Earthquake Conference.
Residents are asked to prepare by registering at www.ShakeOut.org. While homeowners might store extra water, business owners might compile disaster plans.
The point: Everyone should know what to do during the "Big One."
"An enormous earthquake is definitely in our future, said Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological survey. "ShakeOut is a chance for all of us to practice together what we will do when the earthquake happens and to get ready now rather than waiting until the earthquake to act."
In April, the USGS predicted that the Golden State has a 46 percent chance of a magnitude 7.5 or greater quake in the next 30 years -- probably in Southern California.
Last month, the agency published a likely scenario if the Big One were to race at two miles per second from the Salton Sea in Imperial County to Lake Hughes near Palmdale.
"It is awesome. It has biblical proportions," said Keith Porter a structural engineer at the University of Colorado. "This is not a flight of fancy. An event like this will happen."
In the San Fernando Valley, many have already laid the groundwork for a shaker far worse than the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. While that lasted a terrifying seven seconds, the magnitude 7.8 temblor is expected to jostle the city of Los Angeles for an entire 55 seconds as it races across Southern California.
In a first for Los Angeles, the Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council is spending $50,000 -- its entire annual budget -- to equip two 20-foot cargo bins with emergency preparedness supplies.
At the same time, the Encino Chamber of Commerce has gone door to door asking businesses to join in a 10-point emergency-preparedness program.
On June 19, a McDonald's in Encino will host an earthquake drill for workers and school kids at its restaurant.
"We decided that we didn't need to be ready for two to three days, we needed to be ready for two to three weeks," said Melody LeBlanc, past president of the chamber, who had prepared earthquake kits as Christmas giveaways.
"It's important to be prepared, make a kit and to have a plan."