Students at a San Francisco elementary school were among millions of people statewide who took the time this morning to “drop, cover and hold on” as part of a statewide earthquake drill on the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The 6.9-magnitude temblor struck the region on Oct. 17, 1989. Sixty-three people were killed, and more than 3,700 injuries were reported in the aftermath of the quake.
Today, schools, businesses, community groups and other organizations participated in the Great California ShakeOut to mark the anniversary and prepare for the next big quake.
As many as 9.5 million Californians registered for the drill this year, with more than 352,000 San Francisco residents taking part, according to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
The drill is known as one of the biggest in the world, with participants dropping to the ground, taking cover under a sturdy object and holding on.
A class of fifth-graders at San Francisco’s Sunset Elementary School on 41st Avenue crouched under their desks when an announcement went out over the loud speakers at their school at 10:17 a.m.
San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, Deputy Police Chief Lyn Tomioka and Supervisor Katy Tang also dropped to the ground and took cover.
After the drill, students filed out of the classroom and into the schoolyard, where they were commended for their efficiency.
Tang told the youngsters she was proud of them for practicing “so you can be more prepared.”
She urged students to talk to their parents about having emergency supplies, such as an earthquake kit, ready at home.
Hayes-White told the students that the Department of Emergency Management is the “glue that holds everyone together if there’s an emergency disaster.”
“We’re here today to tell you we’re here for you,” the chief said.
She added, “It’s very cool that this school is part of the Great California ShakeOut.”
Tomioka noted that the students are too young to remember the disastrous Loma Prieta earthquake, but she said, “I do remember the last earthquake. One day you will (experience) an earthquake and you will be ready.”
Ten-year-old Raymond, part of teacher Dylan Riley’s fifth-grade class, said after the drill that he feels prepared for an earthquake. He said his parents have told him stories about where they were on that shaky day in 1989.
He said he has water and food set aside at his house in case disaster strikes.
Rob Dudgeon, deputy director of the DEM, emphasized the importance of practicing earthquake drills starting at a young age, much like fire drills.
“We know what to do,” he said. “It’s been ingrained in us.”
In San Jose, hundreds of students participated in the drill at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, which has an exhibit about earthquakes. The children were visited by a pack of “zombies” from Great America’s Halloween Haunt.
A ShakeOut drill was planned at Hayward City Hall, and numerous other events were scheduled throughout the Bay Area.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News