'If we were to have an earthquake ... it would be a major earthquake'

'If we were to have an earthquake ... it would be a major earthquake' »Play Video

EUGENE/CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregonians have a chance this week to go through a very unusual dress rehearsal - one that could save your life.

It's hard to consider the ultimate disaster, but that's what Oregon officials are asking us to do this Wednesday morning at 10:15 a.m.

They're holding the first-ever "Great Oregon ShakeOut." 

"The reality is that if we were to have an earthquake in Lane County," Lane County Emergency Services Manager Linda Cook said, "it would be a major earthquake."

And the date of the drill - Jan. 26 - is no accident. Scientists believe the last really catastrophic quake hit the Northwest on Jan. 26, 1700.

Linda Cook says the idea of the drill is simple: get school students and businesses to practice what to do if an earthquake strikes.

"To duck under a table or a desk and hold on for about 60 seconds, which is about how long an earthquake could last," says Cook.

"The big ones are the subduction zone earthquakes," explains Dr. Bob Yeats, a retired Oregon State geosciences professor who stays busy tracking earthquakes from his lab.

Yeats said scientists can't give us the day or time, but Oregon is overdue for a near 9.0 quake just off the coast.

Yeats has been mapping the fault lines for more than 40 years and is convinced it's just a matter of time.   Yeats believes damage in the Willamette Valley would be considerable - and on the coast, catastrophic. | Tsunami news

Yeats endorses the ShakeOut drill.

"To me, we can't afford not to do something," he said.

"And if we can get people informed and prepared to take cover," Cook said, "then we're going to be in pretty good shape. This is a first step."

Nearly 30,000 Oregonians have signed up for Wednesday's drill. Thirteen schools in Lane County have registered to take part.