RDN ramps up earthquake drill

More than 23,000 people took part across the region in the Great British Columbia ShakeOut drill.

Thousands of people across the Regional District of Nanaimo dropped, took cover and held on when ‘the big one’ hit Thursday morning at 10:18 a.m.

During the Great British Columbia ShakeOut Drill, a simulated earthquake event designed to get people in the habit of taking cover should the real thing happen, 597,604 people took part provincewide while 23,012 participated in Nanaimo.

Few, however, felt the urgency as much as people at the RDN offices on Hammond Bay Road.

Jani Drew, emergency coordinator for the RDN, said the drill there is ramped up to create a real life emergency with giant speakers set up outside broadcasting an emergency announcement, the sound of breaking glass and deep rumbling.

“It made the drill seem very realistic,” said Drew. “It was loud, windows shook, partitions shook because of the big subwoofers. People felt a little bit of imagined urgency. It made them think ‘what could be falling on me right now?'”

The drill didn’t stop there. People evacuated the building, a head count was taken, Red Cross volunteers played members of the public who were missing within the building, and search wardens had to find victims during the emergency sweep.

“We put some twists and turns in there,” said Drew. “One person was located in a washroom, and some door was that normally would have been used had signs on them saying a tree had fallen against it and it can’t be opened. So not just to follow written procedure but to think on your feet. Next year we’ll ramp it up a bit more.”

The RDN’s offices weren’t the only facility to take part. Transit buses pulled over at 10:18 a.m. and broadcast the drill to passengers, who were encouraged to drop, cover and hold on. Workers at treatment plants did the same, and an aquafit class at Ravensong Aquatic Centre learned what action to take while in a pool.

Across Nanaimo, schools, businesses and municipal offices also participated.

Karen Lindsay, the city’s emergency program manager, said the Great ShakeOut is causing more people to ask questions about earthquakes, which improves knowledge in the community.

“There is a keen awareness amongst residents and in the community about the importance of it,” said Lindsay. “Large companies are beginning to call asking what the protocols are, and a lot of other questions and I don’t think we would have seen that a few years ago. It’s got people thinking.”

The RDN recently registered as a Resilient City on the United Nations Strategic Disaster Reduction Resilient Cities campaign, a program designed to limit damage and injury during a disaster and improve emergency response and recovery afterward.

For details on the Great British Columbia ShakeOut, visit www.shakeoutbc.ca. For more information on the U.N.’s resilient cities campaign, visit www.unisdr.org.