Numbers grow for earthquake drill

Nanaimo residents were diving under desks and tables at 10:20 a.m. Thursday during the Great British Columbia ShakeOut.

Nanaimo residents were diving under desks and tables at 10:20 a.m. Thursday as the Great British Columbia ShakeOut emphasized the need for emergency preparedness.

More than 33,000 participants took part in the simulated earthquake throughout the Regional District of Nanaimo up from 27,000 who participated in the first ShakeOut in January. Provincially, more than 520,000 people took part, up from 466,000 10 months ago.

That growth is what organizers want to see.

“What it has done from an education perspective is continue to create awareness amongst the community,” said Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo emergency service coordinator. “People are starting to educate themselves on what to do and how to do it.”

The drill was also held in Oregon, California and other U.S. states in the Pacific region where faults could produce a major earthquake at any time.

In Victoria, Public Safety Minister Shirley Bond, Speaker Bill Barisoff, MLAs and staff interrupted the legislature session to demonstrate the latest strategy for responding to an earthquake.

The best way to protect yourself from falling objects in an earthquake is ducking under a desk or sturdy table, or crouching and protecting your head from impact until one minute after the shaking stops.

“When an earthquake does occur, the ground will shake and jerk sideways, which creates sudden back-and-forth motions,” said Kelli Kryzanowski, manager of catastrophic planning for Emergency Management BC. “This intense shaking can cause every unsecured object in a room to topple, to fall or even become airborne, and this is when people are most often injured or killed in earthquakes.”

Every year in B.C. there are more than 1,200 earthquakes, mostly small. History suggests there is a 30 per cent chance of a major event hitting the province in the next 50 years.

Lindsay said it’s all about emergency preparedness – not only what to do during the immediate event, but the post-event as well.

“Do you have a kit ready? What’s your family emergency plan? For businesses, what is the plan? How do employees react and what is expected of them?” she asked. “It’s got people talking, thinking and acting on it. And for me, that is a measure of success.”

Organizers plan to hold a post-incident analysis to see what worked and what are the gaps in the drill.

“What we hope to do is take those lessons learned, hopefully make an improvement on next year and keep building on it,” said Lindsay.

The next Great British Columbia ShakeOut takes place Oct. 18, 2012.

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