Dewan: How schools are preparing for the big one
Students in East San Jose are pictured in this file photo.

    According to United States Geological Survey (USGS), there is a 70% chance that one or more quakes of a magnitude 6.7 or larger will occur before the year 2030. In the San Francisco Bay Area region, a 6.7 or larger quake could originate from the Hayward fault, the Peninsula segment of the San Andreas fault, or the Rodgers Creek fault.

    There are several things schools do to evaluate and increase their earthquake preparedness, including assessing facilities and securing non-structural items, ensuring emergency supplies are on hand, conducting earthquake drills for students and staff, and participating in the Great ShakeOut.

    Each October, schools and community members are reminded to prepare for earthquakes as part of the ShakeOut campaign during which emergency preparedness partners encourage everyone
    to participate in earthquake drills on October 20 at 10:20 a.m. This awareness and practice drill is a way for us to collectively help people in homes and schools practice how to be safer during earthquakes.

    A key focus of the ShakeOut is to learn and practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On” so people can react quickly when it is necessary. Individuals may only have seconds to protect themselves in an
    earthquake, before being knocked down — or having an unsecured object fall on them during intense earthquake shaking. Practicing can help everyone be ready to respond immediately. When an earthquake happens while you are inside a building, immediately protect yourself as best as possible where you are. Drop, cover, and hold on:

    • Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you),
    • Take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
    • Hold on to it until the shaking stops

    Stay indoors until the shaking stops and it is safe to exit. In most buildings it is safer to stay inside and in place until the shaking stops.

    If outdoors when the shaking starts, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines, then drop, cover and hold on. Stay there until the shaking stops. If driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with the seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.

    It is important to recognize that most earthquake-related injuries and deaths are caused by collapsing walls and roofs, flying glass and falling objects. Therefore, it is safer to move as little as possible to reach the place of safety that has been identified because most injuries occur when people try to move more than a short distance during the shaking. An immediate response to move to a safe place within a few steps of where you are, to avoid injury from flying debris, can save lives.

    ShakeOut also presents an opportunity to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure space to prevent damage and injuries at home. To learn more about earthquake safety and to
    register to participate in the Great ShakeOut, click here.

    San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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