Santa Clarita shakes, rattles and role-plays.
People throughout the Santa Clarita Valley stopped, dropped
and held on at 10 a.m. on Thursday, practicing
for a major earthquake that seismologists have told us is coming within the
next 30 years.
The participants were among the more than 5 million people
involved with the Great Southern California Shakeout, a drill organized by
earthquake experts that gave organizations and individuals a chance to see how
ready they were for a magnitude 7.8 or greater quake along the San
Andreas Fault – a quake that’s two years overdue.
On the playground at Newhall
Elementary School, kindergartners
were all over tricycles, climbing equipment and a sandbox when aides asked them
what they would do if there was an earthquake. After an impromptu lesson in
crouching down and protecting their heads, a bell rang and the children quickly
lined up to march to the center of the campus.
Within five minutes, all the classes were gathered around
the edges of the basketball courts, a table near the center served as an
incident command center, a team of hard-hatted staffers opened the school’s
emergency preparedness equipment shed before breaking into teams to search the
school’s classrooms for any additional “victims” of the quake.
Within an hour, it was over.
The same scenario played out all across the city. At City
Hall, staff held a “tabletop” drill where the Emergency
was activated, and city staff and public safety officials worked on issues of
sustainability and recovery.
The obvious issues of building and infrastructure damage
were discussed, but other issues, such as taking care of staff members who were
at City Hall while their families were in other, unreachable cities, was
Emergency Preparedness Manager Donna Nuzzi said that the
players were given details on damage by geologists who predicted the severity
of damage factoring together where the shaking would be strongest, with the
style and age of the building.
“There would be extensive damage to the bus side of the
Transit Maintenance Facility, and moderate damage to the Metrolink station, the
parks building at Central Park, the corporate yard and Activity
Center,” she said. “But the Aquatics
Center would have no damage at all.”
“This was a challenge,” she continued. “This was our
Katrina. Without power and landlines (phones), we went back to using our
radios. It was a lesson that we should never give up our redundant systems. But
it was definitely a success. Everybody around the table was eager to solve
problems and we all learned we have to think outside the box.”
At the Hart District, a new EOC trailer was put into use and
information on each campus was coordinated from the central location. District
public information officer Pat Willett had some information for parents:
“In a major emergency, students will not be released at
their normal dismissal time. They will be held at the school until a parent or
authorized adult (on the student's emergency card) comes to the specified
Reunion Gate and asks for their student. Students will be called up
individually and released to that person. If parents work outside the area or
for whatever reason cannot get to the school to pick up their child, we are
prepared to shelter the students at the school site overnight if necessary
until they can be safety released.
“If phone service is available, we will send out ConnectED
messages to parents at each school advising them of local conditions at that
school. Assuming that telephone and Internet access may not be available in a
major emergency, we'll rely on local media to get the word out.”
District campuses responded to the drill by evacuating the
students and conducting a roll call to make sure of each student’s whereabouts.
At College of the Canyons, students remained in class, with a 15-minute segment
of instruction on earthquake response and preparedness added to their
discussions at 10 a.m.
For the staff, it was another story. The college activated
its emergency operations center, did a test communication with 400 students and
staff (text, e-mail and cell phone call), put staff members in charge of
checking areas in the various quadrants of the campus and reporting via radio
on their conditions. In one quadrant, there were downed wires, an injury and
fatality. The whole drill took about a half-hour.
Administrator Michael Wilding, who oversaw the drill, said
that they learned a few lessons from Thursday’s exercise.
“We want to change map a little bit, found our radio
protocol needs a little bit of polishing and discovered we needed to establish
a triage zone,” he said. “Lots of employees have contacted us thanking us for
helping them put together an earthquake kit.”
One of the items sent out to students and staff at the
school was a work/living space inspection form that could prove beneficial to
everyone. With the college’s permission, it is printed below:
1. Look up – on top of file cabinets, on the walls and on
bookshelves. Is it safe in the event of an earthquake? Look for anything up
there that you wouldn’t want to strike your head in a violent shaker. Focus on
heavy objects with sharp or pointed edges – glass objects, a large volume of
paper and notebooks that could fall at one time; printers or electronic gear
that are located above your seated position; photos or art with real glass
covers that could shatter if they fell.
2. Take a hard look at your bookshelves themselves. Are they
installed in a way that prevents them from falling on you or blocking your
escape if they fell in your exit path?
3. Do cabinets holding heavy objects have workable latches
on their doors?
4. Is your exit clear of stuff in case you have to leave
after an earthquake? Check for boxes and other clutter that could block your exit
from the building.
5. Do your doors work as they are supposed to?
6. Do your file cabinets have catches on them so they won’t
become “missile hazards” during a quake?
7. Are the microwave ovens, small refrigerators or other
small appliances on counters secured in place?
8. Do you know where fire extinguishers are supposed to be
located and are they in fact there?
9. Can you easily reach your earthquake kit?
10. Do you have a flashlight nearby and have you tested your
11. Do you have sturdy shoes accessible to protect your feet
if you need to walk through debris to get out of the building?
12. Do you know where the nearest first aid kit is?
13. If you work in an area with natural gas or propane
service, is the emergency shutoff valve unobstructed and is there a tool
available for that purpose?
14. Is the water shutoff valve easily accessible?
15. Are chemicals and/or hazardous materials properly stored
so that they will not fall and spill?
16. Do you know, and can you direct others to, the location
of your evacuation site? Is there a map/diagram readily available with the
route to your site?
17. Have you updated your telephone, e-mail and emergency
contact information with your employer/family so you can receive critical text
and other messages subsequent to a disaster?