“Right now, DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON.”
At 10:18 this morning, those instructions blared over the speaker system at the Unalaska City School. In the library, at least a dozen kids huddled under tables and gripped on to the legs. They were taking part in the world’s largest earthquake drill – the “Great ShakeOut.” In Alaska, over 60,000 people registered for the drill, and across the world 14 million people have committed to participate.
Student Kalista Decker says that the simulation was convincing.
“At first I thought it was real, but then [the teacher] was like, ‘It’s a fake drill,’” says Decker.
The instructions were familiar to her. The Aleutian Chain is in an especially active seismic region. Earthquakes are a regular occurrence, though the overwhelming majority of them aren’t even felt. She says that more troubling than earthquakes are the tsunamis that they can trigger. In past year and a half, Decker has already had to participate in two real-life tsunami evacuations of the community.
“It was really scary,” says Decker. “I live near Ski Bowl, so we went up Ski Bowl and watched the ocean, but nothing really happened.”
As for today’s drill, the earthquake simulated was supposed to be a moderate one – one where the ground shakes but doesn’t throw you off your feet. Superintendent John Conwell says it appeared to be a success.
“It was a short drill, it was only about 45 seconds long. And from what I saw, the kids were very much on point,” says Conwell.
After the brief drill, teachers answered questions about earthquake safety and emergency preparedness. Then, it was back to class, as usual.
For more information on what to do when you feel an earthquake, you can go to Shakeout.org.