California stages massive earthquake drop drill

October 20, 2011 12:35:44 PM PDT
Practice makes perfect.

That was the message that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had for San Francisco elementary school students who joined more than 8.5 million Californians participating in the country's largest earthquake drill this morning.

Lee, along with the city's top public safety and school officials, visited William Cobb Elementary School in Lower Pacific Heights to practice ducking and covering as part of the Great California ShakeOut.

Earthquakes are an inevitable part of life in the Bay Area, Lee told a class of third-grade students while he read them a book about the 1906 earthquake and fire.

"Today, we're better prepared," he told the students, as Police Chief Greg Suhr, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and San Francisco Unified School District board president Hydra Mendoza looked on.

More than 1.3 million Bay Area residents were expected to participate in the 10:20 a.m. drill -- including 315,000 people in San Francisco, according to Lee.

It is the third consecutive year that the drill, which began in November 2008 as the Great Southern California ShakeOut, has been held statewide on the third Thursday of October.

Shortly before the drill, the school's playground was bustling with activity and the sounds of recess filled the air. Inside, Lee, Suhr, Hayes-White, Mendoza and the students sat calmly in their seats and waited.

A voice came over the public address system and announced the start of the drill. Within seven seconds, everyone had enthusiastically dropped, taken cover under the desks and were holding tight, awaiting the all-clear.

Suhr was perhaps overly enthusiastic; he told reporters after the drill that he had bumped his head so hard as he was crawling under the desk that the young girl next to him asked if he was hurt.

"She said, 'Ouch! Are you OK?'" Suhr said.

After the drill, students had streamed outside and formed neat rows, and Lee reminded them to encourage their families to participate in regular drills and prepare an emergency kit.

"The more you practice, the more you'll be prepared," he said.

This year, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia and Guam were also scheduled to hold ShakeOut drills today at 10:21 a.m., with an estimated 10 million total participants.


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