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More than 14 million people participated in The Great ShakeOut - the world's largest ever mock earthquake drill - held across the United States and southern Italy on 18 October. The idea originated in the American state of California and is now present in a number of other countries.

The October 2012 drill involved individuals, corporate houses, schools, faith-based organisations, community groups, government agencies and others, and was designed to help prepare all members of society in the eventuality of an actual quake.

A note on the organisation's official Web site reads: "Great ShakeOut earthquake drills help people in homes, schools, and organizations improve preparedness and practice how to be safe during earthquakes."

As many as one million people participated in California alone, which is the organisation's headquarters and also one of the most quake-prone regions in the world, because of its location along the geographic feature called Pacific Ring of Fire.

Other US states where people participated in mass earthquake drills were Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and parts of southeastern USA. In addition, people in Guam, Puerto Rico and British Columbia also took part. Outside of the US, southern Italy and Central Asia carried out the drill, with maximum participation recorded from Campania (approximately 12,600) in southern Italy.

The Great ShakeOut drill includes methods to practice basic and advanced responses to a large earthquake to survive. The most basic technique taught is the simple Drop, Cover and Hold On method - drop to the ground when the quake strikes, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to the object until the shaking stops.

"Federal, state, and local emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations all agree that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. The ShakeOut is our opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes," drill organisers stated in a feature note explaining the methodology.

According to official estimates, over 19.2 million people so far this year have taken part in these drills and approximately 340,000 have already registered themselves as part of the drill next year.

Check out the slideshow to view photos of the mass earthquake drill...