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Getting Ready to Shakeout LA!

firemen with stretcher

To help people understand and prepare for “the Big One,” the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) at USC heads up a worldwide initiative called “the Great Shakeout.”

MySafe:LA focuses on earthquake safety throughout October. On the 18th of this month, we’ll join millions of people who will all drop, cover, and hold on at exactly 10:18AM. LA Metro buses will pull over the stop. Union Station will be the center of attention, as this year’s theme is “commuters.”

And then, we’ll really kick things into gear.

Every year, MySafe:LA and the LAFD partner to execute an earthquake drill that goes above and beyond – to demonstrate the importance of being ready, and to highlight the skills and expertise of your Los Angeles Fire Department.

During the coming two weeks, we’ll share a series of tips, present new videos, and help you to be ready for the Great Shakeout. We’ll have some surprises in store for you as well…

To give you an idea about what we do, let’s take a look at our earthquake drill from last year, conducted on the day of the Great Shakeout. MySafe:LA, the LAFD, SoCal Gas, and CERT-LA converged on Bushnell Elementary School in Highland Park to conduct a realistic earthquake simulation. We selected Bushnell as a good example of a school that might be impacted by a strong earthquake.

The morning began with a fun bilingual presentation on earthquake threat and preparedness for 4th and 5th grade students. A number of special guests spoke to the students, including LAFD Assistant Chief Emile Mack. After the safety presentation, students returned to their classrooms.

At 10:20 AM, along with the rest of the state of California, students reacted to the alarm of “earthquake!” and executed the drop, cover and hold technique demonstrated during the presentation.

That is when the real fun began – but it was all serious for those involved.

Teachers began their evacuation process, as per the protocol of the LA Unified School District. Classrooms were emptied and students moved to the playground in orderly fashion.

Two classrooms were not vacated. Students were “trapped” and unable to leave. Worse, 15 students were injured by the quake. MySafe:LA brought in a Hollywood makeup artist, and she created very realistic injuries for students. This gave first responders the impression of realism.

The first responders to the school were members of the CERT team for Highland Park. These dedicated volunteers began to recon the school, looking for damage and other earthquake related problems. Meanwhile, the LAFD responded with a number of resources. The firefighters were told the school was damaged and some students might be trapped. Task Force 12, Rescue 12, Engine 47, Light Force 1, EMS 2, and Battalion 2 arrived at the school and went into action. In addition, an LAFD K9 handler and her dog arrived and began searching for a missing student.

Within 40 minutes, 30 students had been removed from their “damaged” classrooms, and had been evaluated and treated – and prepared for transport to local hospitals.

This year… we’re going to make it even more realistic. More in my next report.

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