An estimated 100,000 Ventura County schoolchildren, business people and county officials ducked and covered Tuesday in a countywide earthquake drill designed to prepare residents for a catastrophe.
At 10 a.m., Ventura County Sheriff John Gillespie, the head of the county's Office of Emergency Services, interrupted radio stations countywide to encourage people to participate in the drill, which lasted less than a minute.
"We got everybody under desks," said Karen Guidi, Gillespie's assistant director. "That 45 seconds of drill will end up saving lives down the road."
The drill was part of a statewide effort to kick off Earthquake Preparedness Month, designed to keep the public aware of the dangers of quakes and the importance of preparation.
"Because the earthquake in Northern California didn't just happen, people tend to forget," Gillespie said. "The drill will help people remember to be prepared to fend for themselves for a few days."
The drill also helps people take the right action when an earthquake hits, Guidi said.
"Most people instinctively want to run," she said. "Instead, this becomes the immediate reaction. It's duck, cover and hold."
The slogan means that people should duck low and take cover under a solid object that could protect them from falling debris. They should hold on to the legs of the table or desk under which they crawled and be prepared to move with the object.
More than half of Ventura Unified School District students participated in the drill, Guidi said. Many large businesses also instructed employees to take cover, she said.
At the county Government Center on Victoria Avenue, where the emergency message was broadcast over the public address system, employees participated.
In a show of unity, County Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg and the four supervisors in the board hearing room for the weekly meeting dutifully crawled under their long, curved desk on the dais.