More than 60,000 Alaskans, mostly students, took part in the first ever Great Alaska Shake Out Drill Wednesday morning. Created by the US Geological Survey in California in 2008, the Shake Out happens in thirteen states around the country, Canada and as far away as Italy.
It’s a normal Thursday in Tracey Withrow’s fourth grade classroom at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna. Student teacher Victoria Edelman is proctoring a discussion about correctly using the word ‘criticize’. And then, precisely at 10:18 AM, Principal John Podhast announced the drill.
All of the students, both teachers, and about half of this reporter, huddle underneath desks for the next 60 seconds.
The U.S. Geological Survey led several other state and federal organizations in the creation of The Great Shake Out in California in 2008. It was based on a comprehensive analysis of a major earthquake in southern California known as “The ShakeOut Scenario”.
The drill was surprisingly similar to the tornado drills I participated in as a student in the Midwest. After the all clear signal was given, I turned to the students for a little more insight about earthquakes.
“Earthquakes are when the earth has so much pressure on it that it just starts to shake and then it just cracks,” said Emma Craig.
Her classmate, Kaitlyn Massey let me know the quakes can be responsible for “a ton of damage.”
Cheyenne Friedersdorff and Mason Schwecke explain to me that even though the first sixty seconds have passed, we might not be out of danger quite yet.
“The short earthquakes last for up to one to two minutes and after that there could be a….”, “Aftershock,” Mason Schwecke quickly added.
”Well, the big earthquake can be very short, but the can also be very strong. But even if they’re not very strong, the aftershocks can be really really strong and destroy even more buildings,” he said.
I leave Mrs. Withrow’s class unsure of my own capacity to find suitable shelter in the event of an earthquake, but certain that at least our students and teachers will survive.