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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

California Participates In Great ShakeOut

Schools around California participated in emergency drills to practice safety measures in the event of an earthquake. 

USC students, professors and more than ten million people across California dropped, covered, and held on during the eighth annual Great Shakeout Earthquake drill Thursday. 

The Great California ShakeOut took place in homes, offices, and school classrooms across California on Thursday. The goal is to help people prepare for a major earthquake disaster by making safety plans and having access to supplies, like an earthquake preparedness kit. On the USC campus, volunteer victims could be heard crying out for help after the simulated earthquake. USC students and faculty were among the “victims,” who were made up head to toe with fake bruises, blood—even severed limbs and gashes. 

USC junior Irene Kim was one of those volunteers. She was assigned to have a fake concussion and a gashed knee. Kim said the added effects of the makeup, as well as scattered debris such as fake fallen lamp posts, made the event feel even more real.

It felt pretty chaotic,” she said. “A lot was going on, even though it was a simulated environment I myself could feel my heart beating pretty fast, just rushing thinking—am I going to get saved?" 

And even though it was just a simulation, the more than four hundred volunteers took it very seriously. Three Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) were in charge of search and rescue, triaging victims, and helping them get the appropriate medical care.

USC’s Emergency Manager Steve Goldfarb says everyone can prepare for the “when” by understanding how to be self-sufficient during an earthquake.

Personal preparedness is also something we want students to know,” he said. “The need to also take it upon themselves, to have a disaster kit, to know the drop, cover and hold during an earthquake, because help is going to take some time during a big earthquake and you’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Goldfarb says this should get students thinking about escape routes and where to take cover in their apartments, dorms and even classrooms in the event of a real disaster. USC professors and classes were encouraged to participate in the drill. In the cinema school, one class waited in anticipation for the scream that rang out—“earthquake!” at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday. The students and professor climbed under their desks and protected their heads and necks with their hands.

Jeff Primes, president of earthquake preparedness accessories company Ready America, said the biggest danger during an earthquake isn’t the building collapsing, but falling debris.

It’s all those things that are not secured to the building that are the threat,” Primes said.

Primes brought the Big Shaker, the world’s largest mobile earthquake simulator, to the drill so people could experience what it’s like to be in a powerful earthquake, and take the appropriate measures to protect themselves: drop, cover, and hold on. The Shaker mimicked an earthquake with the same intensity as the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Goldfarb said that in addition to participating in drills like these, people can prepare themselves by accessing online resources, like, to make personal safety plans. 

Primes said this kind of preparation is necessary. 

It’s not a question of if the earthquake happens, it’s a question of when,” he added. 

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