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The City Journals

The great Utah shakeout drill helps prepare for the next earthquake

May 03, 2021 01:08PM ● By Rachel Aubrey

Fourth graders from Monte Vista Elementary were encouraged to move away from windows and shelves as they practiced drop, cover and hold on. (Photo taken by Janelle Kendrick.)

By Rachel Aubrey | [email protected]

The month of April was earthquake preparedness month in Utah and many residents participated in the Great Utah Shakeout on April 15, an earthquake preparedness drill that emphasized the “drop, cover and hold on” protocol. This year marks the tenth year of the great Utah shakeout being held in Utah. 

Schools around South Jordan participated in the great shakeout drill. Among them was Monte Vista Elementary with approximately 850 students, where Principal Nanette Ririe along with an on-campus safety committee, were able to make an authentic plan about how their school would approach this year’s earthquake drill. 

“We use the great shakeout model of drop, cover and hold on,” Ririe said. “It’s nice that we were able to practice this year.”

Like a lot of schools in the surrounding area, classrooms at Monte Vista have carts of emergency supplies, mainly water and snacks, that get taken out with the students to a secure location, should they need to evacuate the classroom in an emergency situation. 

Also participating in the Great Shakeout were students at Bingham High School. With a student body of approximately 2,500 students, Assistant Principal Art Ericson said it was important to establish a pattern of safety.

“We want to first and foremost practice safety,” Ericson said. “We want to be able to respond in a certain way.”

With the help of on campus resource officer, and in coordination with the South Jordan police, staff at Bingham were able to coordinate a safe physical evacuation for students.

South Jordan-based company Ultradent, which manufactures high-quality dental products in more than 120 countries, participated in the great shakeout for the last five years. Employees are encouraged to drop, cover and hold on, whether working from home or working inside the offices. Ultradent participated in a companywide earthquake drill on April 29.

“Safety is always a priority for us,” said Daniel Lewis, public relations manager. 

According to Utah Division of Emergency Management Public Information Officer Wade Mathews, the drill itself has traditionally been held on the third Thursday of April as was designated by former Gov. Gary Herbert; however, residents are encouraged to practice earthquakes drills at a date and time that works for them.

“The whole purpose of the Great Utah Shakeout is to conduct an earthquake protective action drill or drop, cover and hold on,” Mathews said. 

There are approximately 700 to 800 earthquakes in Utah a year, according to Mathews, most of which are too small to be felt and occur in unpopulated areas. However, in March of 2020, many residents around the greater Salt Lake area felt the 5.7 magnitude earthquake centered in Magna, along with the 2,590 aftershocks that followed. According to the website www.shakeout.org/utah/whyparticipate, 90% of Utah’s population lives in active earthquake zone.

“Last year’s earthquake was a reminder that we live in earthquake country, and we always have,” Mathews said.

In an effort to be prepared, Mathews suggested three significant areas that everyone should be aware of and several suggestions within each of those areas: 

Before an earthquake:

  • Home hazard hunt: look around your home for furniture or items that are not secure and that could fall over in the event of a large earthquake (water heater, shelves, etc.). 
  • Gather 14 days of non-perishable food and water in your home.
  • Have a grab-and-go bag containing emergency supplies such as flashlights, batteries, water, whistles, medication and first aid in your home, office and car. Personalize your emergency kit with whatever you need to mentally and emotionally get through the disaster.
  • Create a communication plan for your family, have an out-of-state emergency contact and have a designated meeting place outside the home and outside the neighborhood.

During an earthquake:

  • If indoors, stay indoors; practice “drop, cover and hold on” where you are until the shaking stops.
  • Move away from windows, glass, tall furniture and falling objects.
  • If outdoors, stay outdoors, and move away from tall buildings, power lines and trees, and practice “drop, cover and hold on.”

After an earthquake:

  • Check for damage within the house or the area.
  • Call your out-of-state contact to update them.
  • Check in with your neighbors.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.

Because science is unable to reliably predict when the next earthquake will occur, residents are encouraged to educate themselves on how best to prepare. 

For more information about what to include in an emergency supply kit, residents may visit www.bereadyutah.gov. There is no cost to register to participate in the great shakeout, and you can find more information at www.shakeout.org/utah.