Students and Staff Help Model Preparedness in Great California ShakeOut

Schools across the Chula Vista Elementary School District took part in the state’s annual earthquake drill called the Great California ShakeOut at 10:20 a.m. on October 20. The event marked a day of individual and community activities featuring the largest earthquake drill ever organized. Great Shakeout events are intended to foster a culture of preparedness and prevent disasters from becoming catastrophes, organizers said.

A key aspect of the Great ShakeOut is the integration of comprehensive science-based earthquake research and the lessons learned from decades of social science research about why people get prepared.  The result was a “teachable moment” on par with having an actual earthquake.

In CVESD, preparations for the ShakeOut began months in advance. Sherry Stone, Ed.D., the District’s Emergency Preparedness and Security Manager, worked with schools to ensure their participation in a test of emergency radios following the ShakeOut. The test yielded data on functionality of the emergency communication equipment. In addition, Dr. Stone presented an Emergency Kit display for employees at the Education Service and Support Center leading up to the ShakeOut.drop-cover-hold-on_102016-2

The state-wide drill helps create a sense of urgency that is needed for people, organizations, and communities to get prepared, to practice what to do to be safe, and to learn what plans need to be improved.

“Damaging earthquakes can occur at any time wherever we work, live, or travel,” Dr. Stone said. “You never know where you are going to be when disaster strikes. So it is important to have an emergency kit at home, at work and in your car. Make sure to include items you and your loved ones would need on a regular basis, such as medications, baby formula if you have infants, and the basics for food, water and shelter during an emergency.”

The April 2015 magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Nepal and September 2015 magnitude 8.3 earthquake in Chile serve as sobering reminders that large earthquakes can occur with little to no warning. With such disasters in mind, California’s Oct. 20 ShakeOut drill was expected to be the largest preparedness event in history.

Southern California is often referred to as “earthquake country.” At the ESSC and most CVESD schools, the earthquake drill was immediately followed by an evacuation drill.

“Being prepared is especially important in elementary schools, where we are entrusted with the care of children,” Dr. Stone said. “We spend a lot of time teaching children how to respond. Children usually do the right thing in an emergency. Adults need to follow their example.”

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