LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Californians Thursday dove under desks and tables in an annual earthquake survival drill.

Nearly 10 million Californians took part in Thursday’s drill at 10:17 a.m.

Students at Rosement Avenue Elementary School were told by intercom to drop, cover and hold on before they were evacuated, KNX1070’s Jon Baird reports. Firefighters searched for “missing” students and helped those with pretend injuries while others took part in a simulated fire exercise.

“It’s estimated some 1,500 fires are going to break out in Los Angeles alone,” Todd Leitz of MySafeLA said.

Millions more in earthquake-prone regions elsewhere around the world also conducted so-called “drop, cover, hold on” drills.

Known as the Great Shakeout, the drills began in California in 2008.

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 U.S. in the drill.

“Everyone everywhere should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake,” lead organizer 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, Benthien said.

Southern California has not experienced a devastating quake since the 1994 Northridge disaster that killed 60 people and injured more than 7,000.

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.

Drill organizers said this year’s focus is on fires that may be sparked by ruptured utility lines after a quake.

“Each individual should have enough water. You want to make sure that you have a flashlight, batteries and backup batteries, maybe a couple days worth, a change of clothing,” Laurie Newquist with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services told KNX1070 Megan Goldsby. “You should have three kits; you should have one in your home, in your car and in your place of work.”

In Los Angeles, firefighters practiced evacuating students pretending to be injured or trapped by falling debris. They also put out a fake fire that erupted 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. Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown approved a law directing state emergency officials to find ways to fund a statewide quake early warning system by 2016.

For earthquake preparedness tips, click here.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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