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California's early earthquake warning system launches, app becomes available on day of Great ShakeOut drill

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Posted at 6:35 AM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 11:30:25-04

(CNS) -- Californians and millions across the world will "drop, cover and hold on" Thursday for the 12th Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill, designed to encourage preparedness for a major temblor.

The drill will be held at 10:17 a.m. to mimic Thursday's date of Oct. 17, with participants urged to react as if a large earthquake was occurring.

Participants are urged to "drop" to the ground, take "cover" under a desk, table or other sturdy surface and "hold on" for 60 seconds.

In conjunction with the ShakeOut drill, officials are launching California’s early earthquake warning system, the first system of its kind in the U.S.

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The system, based on a series of sensors placed across the state, will use a smartphone app and Amber-Alert-type notification warning that shaking is imminent, giving people a brief opportunity to seek shelter.

In late June, the state tested the system in San Diego County, with all wireless phones in the region emitting a loud sound and receiving a text alert message.

The MyShake app is available for Apple/iOS users via the App Store and through GooglePlay stores for Android phones.

As of Wednesday, almost 11 million people in California had registered at www.shakeout.org to participate in the drill.

Drills are planned across the state and nationwide, as well as in countries including Japan, New Zealand and Canada.

Overall, more than 65 million people registered to take part in the drill.

RELATED: Can the ground open up during a large earthquake?

During an actual earthquake, people who are outdoors should find a clear spot away from trees, buildings and power lines, then drop, cover and hold on. People who are driving should pull over to a clear area, stop and stay seated with seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops.

When the quake ends, motorists should proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that may have been damaged.

ShakeOut organizers note that many Californians have not experienced a damaging earthquake, such as young people or people who recently moved to the state.

They also warned that while the San Andreas fault could generate a large-scale earthquakes up to magnitude-8, there are many other active faults in the region that can produce quakes on par with the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

"These earthquakes will disrupt services like electricity, water and sewer, and may limit access in and out of the region," according to shakeout.org. "Fire and police departments will be dealing with the most serious situations and may be unable to respond quickly to issues in your community. Government assistance may not be available or not enough to replace your damaged belongings or repair your home. Good news: Preparing now will give you confidence that you and your family will stay safe when the earth shakes."

RELATED: Is there such a thing as earthquake weather?

According to the USGS, some 2,000 people would die, tens of thousands would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from a magnitude-7.8 or larger quake, which would have 50 times the intensity of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake.

Hundreds of aftershocks would follow, a few of them nearly as big as the original event, according to the USGS.

Californians should be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours following an earthquake or other major disaster, officials say. That includes having a first-aid kit, medications, food and enough water for each member of a household to drink one gallon per day for at least 72 hours, according to local and state officials.

Homeowners and renters should also know how to turn off the gas in their house or apartment in case of leaks.

This year's drill coincides with the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area that had a magnitude of 6.9.

It killed 63 people and injured thousands more.