Students at Ramona High School were among nearly 670,000 people countywide who had registered to take part in the fifth annual "Great California ShakeOut" Thursday morning.
Preparing for "the big one" was the goal of a statewide earthquake drill when San Diego-area government offices, businesses, schools and other organizations stopped everything for a minute so participants could "drop, cover and hold on."
Chris Vavra's freshmen English class at the high school, which is a blend of general ed, special ed and bilingual students, took cover under the desks for one minute after principal assistants Joanne Parker and Linda Phillips-Dodson simulated low-rumbling over the loud-speaker.
Parker said drills like these are important practice for the real deal.
"I think it's good because when an actual emergency occurs, you don't know what your response is going to be," Parker said. "This prepares you."
Phillips-Dodson agreed, saying that an "automatic response" generated from these drills is necessary, and unlike other emergencies, such as a hurricane, earthquakes are unpredictable.
"With an earthquake, there's no planning," Phillips-Dodson said. "It just happens.
Statewide, there are 9.3 million registered participants, compared to 8.6 million last year, according to ShakeOut.org.
The objective is to raise awareness about precautions to take during a magnitude-7.8 or larger quake along the southernmost area of the San Andreas fault.
"What we do now, before a big earthquake, will determine what our lives will be like afterwards," said Rick Hindrichs, director of disaster services for the American Red Cross San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter. "With earthquakes an inevitable part of our future, we must act quickly to ensure that disasters do not become catastrophes -- getting a kit, making a plan and being informed are critical measures everyone can take."
Ten of San Diego County's 18 municipalities were scheduled to participate, along with the county, the Port of San Diego, most of the universities, colleges and public elementary, middle and high schools.
The county of San Diego is focusing on safety for people who are riding in trains or outdoors when a major temblor strikes. According to Amtrak, passengers might not even feel an earthquake, but engineers would have to stop their trains while tracks are inspected.
Under the quake scenario, a tectonic shift would produce waves of movement for hundreds of miles, over four minutes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, some 2,000 people would die, tens of thousands would be injured and more than $200 billion in damage would result from the catastrophe, 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. 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.
-City News Service contributed to this report.