Great ShakeOut drill returns to USC

Expect to hear “drop, cover and hold on” tomorrow, when the Southern California Earthquake Center holds its second annual Great California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill that included nearly 5.5 million participants last year.

On Oct. 15 at 10:15 a.m., people across California — including USC — will participate in the simulation aimed at improving the general public response to a potential natural disaster.

“Participation is strongly encouraged,” said Steven Goldfarb, fire safety and emergency planning specialist at USC. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t react the right way when an earthquake hits, and when they do, it could be too late to avoid injury … We’re trying to get people used to doing the right thing, which is drop, cover and hold.”

At the Health Sciences Campus, SCEC will also be testing the preparation of USC’s earthquake emergency response team, which involves participants from departments across campus including Public Safety and Hospitality, Goldfarb said.

The SCEC plans to hold the response test every year, alternating between the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.

“We’re trying to embed it into the culture at USC … We want to do this every single year so that it becomes a regular routine thing,” Goldfarb said.

Based on last year’s feedback, Goldfarb said SCEC has also improved the simulation and corrected portions of it that were lacking.

To adequately address the issue of fires breaking out in an earthquake and the difficulty of communicating in such a situation, the event will now include a fire engine, a radio communication team and 100 additional volunteers trained in first aid, search and rescue, and fire suppression.

“We want to be able to show we can be self-sufficient,” Goldfarb said. “After a 7.8 [magnitude earthquake], we can’t rely on 911 services, so we need to be able to take care of our staff, faculty and students. We’d do it even if the Shake Out didn’t exist because we need to test out our plans.”

All of the respondents involved have received training and had smaller drills, but the simulation will provide an opportunity for the entire team to get some experience working together.

Knowing how to react in an earthquake could come in handy very soon. According to SCEC’s website, the San Andreas Fault has a 59 percent chance of producing a 6.7 or greater quake in the next 30 years. Across California, the chances of a 6.7 or greater earthquake are 99.7 percent.

“That’s not in 30 years — that is anytime,” said Mark Benthien, executive director of Earthquake Country Alliance, who was involved in the planning of the event. “It could be today.”

The recent water main breaks that have prompted scientists from the Jet Propulsion Lab to investigate any increase in tremor activity in the region have not directly affected the simulation, but Goldfarb said the drill would include preparing for broken pipes to better prepare the facility management team.

While many students said they only vaguely remember last year’s drill, a few remember the simulation, which took place at the University Park Campus. Connor Flanagan, a sophomore majoring in cinema-television production, volunteered as a victim.

“I woke up early, went and had a bunch of blood and makeup thrown on me, and hid out in one of the music buildings until rescuers came and assessed me,” Flanagan said. “It was really fun to get all bloody and strapped to a gurney, but I think it was most useful for the emergency responders.”

Flanagan also remembers, however, that many students were not aware of the drill, and did not believe many professors participated.

Helen Liu, a junior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention studies, said she remembered last years’ simulation, but didn’t think the event was that successful at equipping the public.

“Honestly, I think there’s only so much you can do to prepare,” Liu said. “They don’t anticipate the mass fear that will happen. [But] because they are trying to get them used to it, the fear and panic will be less.”

To promote the ShakeOut this year, SCEC has asked faculty members to be more involved and actively participate in the drill. The team will also issue a Trojans Alert to remind people on campus to participate.

A number of students said the drill, and the reminders, can be beneficial — especially for students who are not used to earthquake preparation.

Brett McCoy, a sophomore majoring in business administration from Whittier, said many of his friends panic at the slightest tremor, a problem which could be addressed by the drill.

“When you get the smallest shake, people will be in shock … Some will be, ‘California earthquake!’ while others will just be scared,” McCoy said.

Though the Big One might just be a rumble away, organizers are hoping students, staff and faculty will be ready to deal with it.

“I’m from Minnesota so every time I go home I secretly hope that it will happen while I’m gone,” Flanagan said. “I know it’s coming but life goes on. You can’t stop living just because of Mother Nature.”

1 reply
  1. John
    John says:

    WOW, No I get spam on trojan alerts about these fun little students activities. I signed up for Trojan Alerts so that I can get current emergencies not every little safety drill.

    ITs called natural selection:
    If an earthquake happens those with the retarded genes who choose to calm themselves down by smoking a cigarette near the leaky gaspipe right underneath the stone bridge get eliminated from the gene pool.

    Great to have shakeout, stop sending me TXTs for it BECAUSE I PAY FOR THOSE. I want text only in a serious emergency

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