Thousands of people in the Comox Valley will be doing the same thing this Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. — dropping, covering and holding on.
Nearly 10,000 Valley residents have registered to participate in the Great British Columbia ShakeOut, which is expected to be the largest earthquake drill in Canadian history.
“There are currently more than 410,000 people registered to participate in the drill,” Heather Lyle, co-chair of the ShakeOut BC organizing committee, said in a press release. “This includes more than 135 different municipalities and more than 740 schools.”
The provincewide drill is intended to enhance public awareness of the earthquake hazard in B.C.
An invention of the BC Earthquake Alliance Society, the drill is modelled after the California ShakeOut drill, and the Jan. 26 date marks the 311th anniversary of the last magnitude nine earthquake in B.C.
School classes, families, office staff or individuals can participate in the Great British Columbia ShakeOut by using the Drop, Cover and Hold On method, which encourages people to drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold onto this desk or table until the shaking stops.
Many local schools are participating in the ShakeOut.
“The information has been sent to each school to register to be part of the ShakeOut,” said Paul Berry, the district principal of health and safety. “Drop, Cover and Hold On information has been distributed to each school to remind each school of the procedures to get students up to snuff on earthquake procedures.”
At 10 a.m., a recorded earthquake simulation that includes rumbling sounds and the sounds of glass breaking to give people a sense of what an earthquake would sound like will play in each of the sites that has registered, explained Berry.
The students, staff and any visitors to the schools will participate in their drills, and while they’re doing that, a recorded or spoken narrative will explain what they would be experiencing and why they are following through on these drills, he noted.
“Some schools will be following full evacuations, but this drill is really intended to reinforce the Drop, Cover and Hold On practice,” said Berry.
Most of the Valley’s elementary schools, the school board office and the Aboriginal Education Centre have registered for the ShakeOut, while some of the high schools are not participating because they are in the middle of provincial exams, according to Berry.
Berry thinks participating in the ShakeOut helps reinforce the fact that we live in an earthquake zone.
“This particular provincewide drill is in recognition of a very significant earthquake that took place in B.C. more than 300 years ago,” he said. “It’s a reminder to everyone that we live in an earthquake zone and that at some point in our future, there will be an earthquake.”
The schools practise earthquake drills on a regular basis throughout the year, but this drill is an extra reminder to the broader public to reinforce the potential for an earthquake occurring where we live, explained Berry.
“We need to be prepared for such an event and give everyone the skills to survive it,” he said.
While data comes out almost every year saying the Drop, Cover and Hold On procedure might not be the best due to the dangers of being underneath a desk or table if a building or roof collapses, research shows that with the type of construction we have in buildings in North America, Drop, Cover and Hold On is “exactly what you want to do,” according to Berry.
“Being underneath a desk or something heavy and holding onto it so it doesn’t rattle away from you is the safest procedure for everyone,” he said.
According to the ShakeOut website, 9,544 participants in the Comox Valley district have registered for the earthquake drill, including 22 schools and preschools.
The Comox Valley Regional District, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox and the Village of Cumberland have all registered for the ShakeOut.
For more information about the ShakeOut, visit www.shakeoutbc.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.