People around the world in earthquake prone regions are gearing up for a major earthquake drill today.
More than 24 million people have signed up to duck under their desks today at 6.17pm Irish time, cover their heads and hold on to something sturdy.
The exercise allows first responders to dust off their emergency response plans and transportation departments to practice slowing down trains in the event of real shaking.
The Great ShakeOut was first held in California in 2008 and participation has since spread around the globe. This year, Japan, Canada, Italy and Guam planned to join the US in the drill.
Ireland is not one of the countries taking part, although in August alone there were two earthquakes in the Irish Sea and in May Ireland was hit with a 3.8 magnitude earthquake that sent shudders through the island as we slept at 4.16am.
“Everyone everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake,” lead organiser Mark Benthien said.
Participation has exceeded last year’s level despite a government shutdown that prevented the Federal Emergency Management Agency from doing last-minute promotion of the drill on social media sites.
In recent weeks, parts of the world have been rattled by powerful quakes, including a magnitude-7.1 jolt that killed more than 100 people in the Philippines and damaged historic churches.
This year’s focus is on fires that may be sparked by ruptured utility lines after a quake.
In Los Angeles, firefighters will practice evacuating students pretending to be injured or trapped by falling debris. They will also put out a fake fire that erupts in a classroom at an elementary school in the Echo Park neighborhood.
Several countries, including Japan and Mexico, have an alert system that gives a few precious seconds of warning to residents after a large quake.
If you still feel that you need to prepare for such an event, why not get under your desk in work at 18.17pm. The boss will understand – it’s health and safety after all.
~additional reporting by Associated Press