Great ShakeOut rumbles through Bay Area Oct. 18

There likely won't be any freeway closures, power outages or overturned supermarket shelves, but on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m., wherever people are they will take cover as if an earthquake has struck.

The occasion is the annual Great ShakeOut, an international disaster-preparedness drill in earthquake-prone areas involving hundreds of government, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, businesses and individuals.

Wherever they are, at 10:18 a.m. people will drop, cover and hold on for 60 seconds, as if there was a major earthquake at that moment.

The shakeout is an opportunity to get people to prepare for a major quake and become familiar with what to do and check on those earthquake supplies, organizers said. More than 9.3 million people in California plan to take part in the event.

The Great ShakeOut comes on the heels of the 23rd anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurred on Oct. 17, 1989. The 6.9-magnitude quake originated in the Santa Cruz Mountains and caused 63 deaths and thousands of injuries.

It sparked a fire and the destruction of homes in San Francisco's Marina district, collapsed a section of the Bay Bridge and flattened a section of the Embarcadero Freeway in Oakland, trapping dozens of cars between layers of concrete.

In Palo Alto, a variety of organizations and individuals plan to take part in the ShakeOut, including Midtown Court Neighbors & Friends, The Stratford School, Palo Alto Police Department, Head Up! Child Development Center and Children's Creative Learning Center in downtown, according the Great ShakeOut website.

Caryll-Lynn Taylor, who heads the Midtown Court Neighbors, said residents first participated in the Great ShakeOut in 2009 after a series of power outages. Twenty or more neighbors participate each year, she said.

"It's important to us because, we feel prepared when we take time to be mindful of the steps to take if an earthquake should happen: Drop, Cover and Hold.

"It is an opportunity for us to know who is home or away from home should an earthquake happen, and when our most vulnerable are home and may need assistance.

"We feel safer when we practice our emergency plan. And it helps to know what neighbors we can depend on if needed," she said.

Participating residents carry their "bug out" bag with them if they are away from home. Neighbors who are at home -- if it is safe to do so -- grab their "bug out" bag near their front door or under their bed before they drop, cover and hold, she said.

"This way, should they get trapped, they have cell phone and water, plus a few supplies, until help arrives," she said.

More than 18.8 million people have registered for the event globally, including in Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Utah, Guam, Puerto Rico and areas in the southeastern and central U.S. International participants include British Columbia (Canada), Italy, New Zealand and Japan.


Like this comment
Posted by george
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm

This one minute pretend event won't prepare you for an earthquake. It may even give you a false sense of security that you know what to do in an area wide disaster. But it's not only the first minute after a devastating shock one must survive. By preparing ahead of time you will be able to deal with the days and weeks of the aftermath for you and your family.

The only practical way to prepare for an earthquake is to join the City's Emergency Preparation program. You will learn to successfully cope when and after an earthquake occurs; such an event will happen - we just don't know when.

Like this comment
Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

It sounds like a nice idea to commemorate an event that happened in 1989, but other than that, it is a pretty useless gesture.

Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

The main message of the Great Shakeout is "DROP, COVER and HOLD ON" - rather than trying to run to a doorway (which is not safer than any other part of the building), attempting to find the so called "triangle of life" (which is not of benefit in US built buildings) or trying to run outside. Ideally, while people would also reflect on their emergency plans and kits, the key message of the drill is Drop, Cover and Hold On.

The drill recognizes that in this era of short attention spans, it's hard to attract and sustain attention for disaster preparedness. 60 seconds may sound trivial, but how else can you raise awareness when we're competing with so many other causes and news issues?

Like this comment
Posted by Caryll-Lynn
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Sue, thank you so much for this informative article. Gosh, "Drop,Cover & Hold" should come second nature to baby boomers. David my husband, who has 12yrs on me, says, a highlight of his youth (1950's) was practicing drop,cover & hold once a year in school. We have learned so many good lessons and practices in emergency response since we were youths. Our group on Midtown as prepared as we can be with supplies. But it does take maintenence and practice to be ready at a moments notice. Even,the night before the Great Shake Out, we found our two way radio and flashlight batteries needed to be charged. During the year we use some of our supplies for other drills, so water and snacks needed to be replaced. Plus, batteries, water and food can expire and need to be replaced. We also found during the excercise that some of our members couldn't recall their call signs for two way radio communications. But after a couple of transmissions, they found it was like riding a bike, their muscle memory took over and they completed our two way radio net test using the proper terms and call signs they had learned during our repeated training sessions over the years. Most of our neighbors who participated said, it was good to practice, #1-'knowing where their bug out bag(s)were at a moments notice, #2 -imagining how they would act and what steps they would take if sleeping in bed or at work and #3 being mindful to keep batteries charged. Our block knows all to well to expect the unexpected,9/13/11 our entire block of residents were evacuated after a 'chlorine gas explosion'. Whether, its an earthquake or some other emergency, we can be prepared...

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