Great ShakeOut shakes out great

Dominick Rukenbrod is seen underneath his desk during the Great Oregon Shakeout earthquake drill at Crestview Heights elementary school in Waldport. | Photo by Shelby Wolfe

WALDPORT — Students across the district scrambled under their desks on Thursday morning, as over half a million other individuals did the same across the west coast.

The Great ShakeOut is an annual drill held around the world on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m. local time. A total of 573,267 Oregonians pledged to participate Thursday, with 8,274 of those being Lincoln County residents.

At Crestview Heights School in Waldport, preparations for the drill started well before Thursday.

“Not yesterday but the day before we watched a video about earthquakes,” said Dominick Rukenbrod, a student in Mrs. Saxton’s third and fourth grade class. The video was distributed to teachers across the district by Comprehensive Safe Schools Coordinator Sue Graves. Some students commented that, after watching the video, they became a little scared or worried about an earthquake.

The day before the drill, Graves visited Saxton’s classroom to help them practice for the drill. This helped to ease some young minds, because they knew what to do. Then, the big day arrived.

At 10:18 a.m. the intercom at Crestview Heights came on, announcing that the school was in an earthquake, with accompanying sounds for effect, adding: “It’s a big one! Please drop, cover and hold, and remain until you’re released.”

The students immediately ducked under their desks, used one hand to cover their head or eyes and the other to hold a leg of the desk.

Halo Rust, another of Saxton’s students, explained that the purpose of holding the desk leg is “to keep the table down during an earthquake, because it might knock it over and then I’ll be uncovered, and things could fall on me, I could get hurt.”

As for covering their heads or eyes, Rust’s classmate Ainsley Lister explained, “That’s just because they wanted to hold onto themselves. Some people did this to protect their eyes from dust.”

After holding under their desk for over three minutes, the students were then asked to evacuate the building. Teachers, staff and students alike walked outside to the designated area for the second phase of the drill. After receiving the all-clear from the principal, students headed back inside.

“I thought it went great,” said Principal Libba Sager.

Sager also explained that, after every drill, she sends an email out to teachers and staff with opportunities for improvement.

“Once I do the walkthrough and everything,” Sager explained. “The secretary and health and records (assistant), we all talk about things that we saw that might need to be fixed … so I send a follow-up email for things that we saw as a reminder.”

While the ShakeOut is a drill specifically for earthquakes, the Lincoln County School District’s emergency plans for a number of potential disasters are posted in each room of Crestview Heights — including a fire, chemical spill, missing student or kidnapping, bomb threat or tsunami.

Althea Rizzo, geologic hazards awareness program coordinator at Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management, explained that the drill is a way to help people engage in earthquake preparation — and a fun one, for many.

“Earthquakes are just one of the natural hazards we face in Oregon,” said Rizzo. “We also experience winter storms, wildfires and flooding. Experience has shown that in the aftermath of large disasters — consider the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia or Hurricanes Maria and Florence – personal preparedness is critically important. The Great ShakeOut is a safe and fun way to practice what to do when seismic activity occurs.”

Visit www.shakeout.org to learn more about the Great ShakeOut and earthquake preparation.

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