Berkeley High School joined millions of people worldwide who dove under their desks and tables Thursday as part of a coordinated earthquake-preparedness drill.
California was one of a dozen states and countries participating in the fifth annual Great ShakeOut drill, which includes practicing “the drop, cover and hold on” response and updating emergency-preparedness plans and supplies.
“Because we have earthquakes in California, people need to know what to do to protect themselves,” said Mark Benthien, an organizer of the drill and an associate director at the Southern California Earthquake Center.
The drill comes just a day after the 23rd anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a magnitude 6.9 quake with an epicenter near the Loma Prieta peak of the Santa Cruz mountains.
Benthien said about 14.3 million people signed up to participate worldwide, 9.4 million in California. Other ShakeOut drills were scheduled to take place at 10:18 a.m. local time in Nevada, Arizona, Alaska, Southern Italy and British Columbia, among other areas.
Selected schools in the Berkeley Unified School District, including Berkeley High School, participated in the drill, said district spokesperson Mark Coplan.
“We basically did a duck-and-cover and an evacuation drill for the entire school, which is always a bit of a project for us because we have about 3,200 students,” said Berkeley High School principal Pasquale Scuderi. “We think it went very well. We were pleased with the time in which we evacuated.”
Coplan said that although the drill was not implemented districtwide, the schools are prepared for an earthquake.
“We’ve got a pretty strong response mechanism in place, and we have an emergency operations center that is activated when there is a situation,” Coplan said.
UC Berkeley sent out messages to building managers in advance of the drill and used its siren system at 10:18 a.m. to notify the campus that the drill was taking place, said Amina Assefa, manager of the Office of Emergency Management.
Students and faculty in class did not necessarily participate because of the lack of advance notice of the drill, Assefa said.
“We didn’t want to disrupt classes, especially since we hadn’t worked with (students and faculty) ahead of time to prepare for that,” Assefa said. “We didn’t know how instructors would respond to students getting under their desk.”
Still, Assefa said future drills might be coordinated with the academic side of campus to better include students and faculty.
“Our obligation is to work with the students and faculty to be more prepared on the campus*,* and stuff like this is how we’re going to get there,” Assefa said.
The Hayward fault, which runs directly below Memorial Stadium, has the potential to produce a damaging earthquake. Scientists and engineers released a forecast in 2008 stating that the fault has a 31 percent probability of producing a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake before 2036, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The forecast also stated that the overall probability of at least one magnitude-6.7-or-greater earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area occurring between 2007 and 2036 is 63 percent.
In the event of an earthquake, students should follow specific instructions to protect themselves.
“Get under a sturdy table or desk, and hold on until the shaking stops, and then they should exit the building and should not re-enter the building until they’re told to do so,” Assefa said.
Contact Mitchell Handler at [email protected].
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