At 10:20 a.m. on Oct. 20, students at Mile 108 Elementary School participated in The Great British Columbia ShakeOut, touted by provincial organizers as the largest earthquake drill in Canadian history.
The children were among those at seven schools in School District 27 who learned how to “drop, cover and hold on” in the earthquake awareness and emergency preparedness session.
Mile 108 principal Tom Turner says each year students at his school receive instruction on its internal emergency plan and participate in a practice drill.
On ShakeOut day, these children learned in their classroom that when the rumble starts, they need to drop down and hide under their desk, or something else protective, until the shaking stops.
Then they waited one minute more before exiting the building in a controlled manner, Turner explains.
The schools emergency plan is outlined for the students before the session, Turner says, adding it is imperative they meet up with teachers at their appointed spot outside.
Grade 7 student Chantelle Walters participated in the ShakeOut drill in her classroom.
“I learned you should always stay low and cover up your neck, so in case anything big or heavy falls, you won’t damage your neck or get seriously injured. And, always wait until someone tells you instructions to exit the school.”
Her classmate, Catherine Foote, also learned some important aspects of earthquake safety.
“You should always stay low to the ground and stay calm, because if you don’t stay low, then flying debris might hit you in the head or injure you.
“It’s important to stay calm because if you panic, then you might make other people around you panic and it just makes the whole situation worse.”
The girls’ teacher, Murray Helmer, says it is an important safety session to practice in advance.
The students are also taught how emergencies differ, he says, adding the toughest part is getting all students to understand what they are learning is not fun and games.
“They are doing some things they know are not for real; they are probably a little self-conscious about doing, so [some] don’t take it with the seriousness that they have to.”
Helmer says he’s witnessed the children’s reactions when a fire alarm goes off unexpectedly, where they typically get “very serious, very fast.”
Earlier this year, almost a half million people registered as participants in the first BC ShakeOut, but the earthquake preparedness drill has now been permanently scheduled on the third Thursday of October to avoid conflicting with provincial exams.
More information on the procedures for earthquake preparedness is posted on the website at www.shakeoutbc.ca.