Making the most out of your Earthquake Drill
Are you Ready to ShakeOut at 10:16am on 10/16?
The Great California ShakeOut offers a once-a-year opportunity to focus attention on the fact that at any moment we can experience a major earthquake and to practice what actions we will take to lessen the odds of being injured during or after the quake.
For many years K-12 earthquake drills were treated like slightly-modified fire drills – the only difference being that students were told to “Drop, cover, and hold on!” before automatically evacuating the classroom – without ever checking to make sure that it was safer outside than in. Over time we have learned a lot about the damage we can expect in classrooms from even moderate earthquakes. Fortunately both teachers and students are taking these lessons learned and earthquake drills more seriously.
Here are a few things you can do before and during this month’s ShakeOut exercise that can reduce injuries to yourself and your students in an actual quake:
1) Mitigate: Lead your students in a classroom “Hazard Hunt.” Ask them to identify what could topple over, fall off walls or shelves, or go flying across the classroom as a projectile. Take time to either better secure or relocate the potential hazards.
2) Anticipate: Remind students that their first choice should be to seek cover under a sturdy desk, table, or even a chair – any thing that can protect their head and neck. Show them how, when there is no furniture nearby, they should try to get next to an inside wall, drop to their knees, curl forward in the fetal position (with their head at least 6” from the ground) and create a “butterfly” by crossing their wrists behind their neck with their shoulders tucked against their ears. Explain that major quakes often create additional hazards – like flying glass from windows breaking. If your classroom has a suspended ceiling, make your students aware of these potential post-quake hazards:
- Both the acoustic and plastic light cover panels may fall in a major quake with the sharp plastic panel edges creating an injury hazard as they fall. Once on the ground the plastic panels become a dangerous, slippery, walking surface that can be difficult to see in reduced light or darkness.
- The supporting metal strips that suspend the panels may end up dangling from the ceiling at head height or below creating risk of injury upon standing or during evacuation.
- The fluorescent light tubes may break raining down glass shards.
Activity: Teach students to check themselves for injury when the shaking stops and to “Look up, down, and all around!” for quake-caused hazards before they get out from under their desk or move from wherever they sought refuge during the shaking.
3) Model proper response: The moderate magnitude 5.5 Chino Hills earthquake in 2008 is probably the only earthquake of notable size that your K-12 students have experienced. As their teacher you will likely be the first person in the classroom to recognize that an earthquake is happening. Your quick actions of dropping to the ground, taking cover, and holding on – while you say “Earthquake! Drop, cover and hold on!” can give your students the extra couple of seconds they may need to protect themselves. By being the first to seek cover you are more likely to be uninjured and better able to care for your students when the shaking stops.
Activity: Use the ShakeOut exercise to practice modeling your “first to drop” response. Then, throughout the school year, whenever you feel the ground start shaking, even if it turns out to be a large passing truck, use the opportunity to conduct a spontaneous “Drop, cover and hold on!” exercise. The “proper response” behavior you model and teach your students will serve them well no matter where they are when our long-overdue major earthquake finally happens here in earthquake country.
4) Style matters: Remind students to face away from windows and other sources of glass with the memory jogger: “Keep your brass to the glass!” (The brass on the back pockets of their jeans, that is.) In an actual major quake both the student’s desk and the ground will be moving violently. Teach students to keep their head about halfway between the underside of the desktop and the floor and to shield their eyes with their arm while they hold onto a leg of the desk. Explain that they should try to remain on their knees, instead of sitting down, so they can more easily move with the desk when it moves.
Activity: Ask all students to “Drop, cover and hold on!” then check each one’s style. Ask those students whose style has been checked, and corrected, if necessary, to join you in critiquing the styles of remaining students.
5) Look before you leave: During a major quake exterior building facades may crumble and fall, overhangs and breezeways may partially or fully collapse, power lines and trees may be down, chemicals can spill… Before allowing your students to evacuate after a major quake (and during the ShakeOut exercise) make sure that it is safer outside than in.
When the ground starts shaking in our long-overdue major quake, the response skills you learn, teach, and practice with your students will serve you well and may save a life.
Irene Long is a founding member of the now international ShakeOut campaign and the Earthquake Country Alliance Speakers Bureau. She has been involved in family, school, community and faith-based organization disaster preparedness for more than 25 years, most recently as Emergency Services Manager for the American Red Cross. Her disaster preparedness efforts have been recognized and endorsed by FEMA, the Department of Defense, and the White House.
Emergency Preparedness and your School
In California, earthquakes and wild fires might be the most common emergencies that we consider when preparing for an emergency. But are you really prepared for a crisis? What would you do if your school was vandalized over the weekend? Where would you put your displaced classes and teachers who had flood damage because of a pipe burst? How would you know if the missing computers were an internal or external theft job? Would faculty and staff question strangers wandering around campus?
Take this month to review your crisis and emergency response plans. If you don’t know where to start, you can start with a security survey.
The Department of Education has put together a guide called the Crisis Response Box which guides you through gathering all pertinent information in one box so administrators are prepared to effectively manage and respond to a crisis. When law enforcement or other agencies need to respond to your school site, being prepared allows responders to more quickly and effectively move into action.
Security Officers and their role in an Emergency
If your school is fortunate enough to have security officers on campus have they been properly trained? These personnel play a critical role in responding in an emergency and will often be your first responders to crisis. Make sure your officers understand their roles and responsibilities in your Emergency Response Plan. If they have never received training regarding security officers on a school campus, they are out of compliance and are taking on unnecessary risk. According to Education Code 38001.5 and 72330.5. all personnel who work at least 20 hours a week in the role of security personnel, regardless of title, are mandated to 24 hours of training. This training is imperative in teaching officers their roles and responsibilities on a school campus. The Wright Group can bring this training to you. Contact us to find out how.
Training topics include:
- Role and Responsibility of School Security Officer
- Laws and Liability
- Security Awareness in the Educational Environment
- Mediation/Conflict Resolution
- Disasters and Emergencies
- Dynamics of Student Behavior