Oak Bay firefighters John Ballantyne and Riley Ireland moving into drop, cover and hold position for the Great ShakeOut. (Morgan Cross photo)

Drop, cover and hold on for the Great ShakeOut

Businesses, organizations, families, residents encouraged to register

Morgan Cross

News contributor

An estimated 30 million people worldwide will drop, cover and hold on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 10:19 a.m. in accordance with the annual Great ShakeOut. As in past years, roughly 800 thousand are expected to participate in the annual earthquake drill in B.C., though Oak Bay fire chief and president of the B.C. Earthquake Alliance Dave Cockle hopes that number will reach one million this year, amounting to just under one quarter of B.C.’s population.

After two major earthquakes struck Mexico in September alone, North Americans might be opening their eyes, homes and offices to earthquake preparedness more. The Cascadia subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca plate is moving under the North America plate, exists off the west coast of Vancouver Island and stretches down to northern California. If an earthquake should occur in the subduction zone in the next 50 years, it is likely to be a megathrust earthquake (commonly referred to on Vancouver Island as “the big one”).

But even a less major earthquake can cause serious injury or death if those affected are not adequately prepared. Cockle pointed to the dangerous reality of hanging lights, paintings and mirrors. Simply attaching cabinets and removing glass mirrors from above beds could prove life-saving steps.

“You should have a pair of slippers beside the bed, because 33 per cent of the time we’re sleeping in this world, so we have to be prepared for it to happen at night,” said Cockle. Storing a pair of slippers under the bed provides a way to leave the room or building after an earthquake occurs, when glass may be shattered on the floor.

Above all else, memorizing the drop, cover and hold on drill is the most efficient way to stay safe in the event of an earthquake.

“It’s like anything you do: it’s muscle memory. When you go skating or you play baseball … it’s about muscle memory,” said Cockle. “If you don’t have to think about the drill, and you just automatically do it because it’s happening, that’s a good thing.”

Cockle used Japanese earthquake survivors as an example of proper earthquake response. “People absolutely stopped, dropped and covered, and held onto whatever they could where they were. That’s where we need to get the culture of this province too, so that if we do have a significant earthquake, people will be prepared and we will be able to survive it.”

With or without tables or desks, Cockle said the drop, cover and hold on drill applies. During a major earthquake, it is often not possible to walk anywhere. Dropping, covering your head, neck and protecting your major organs is the most effective way to avoid the worst, even if that means taking to the ground in the middle of a room.

In Oak Bay, the earthquake drill will take place in schools, homes and offices, though the main event will be hosted by Monterey Recreation Centre.

“We encourage people to register online, register your family, register your business,” said Cockle.

Videos covering the drop, cover and hold on drill, information about earthquake preparedness, and registration is available at shakeoutbc.ca. Those who registered in past years must register again this year to take part.

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