By Douglas W. Motley
Students, teachers and administrators throughout California, including some 3,900 students attending Rim District schools, quickly ducked beneath their desks and covered their heads at precisely 10:21 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21 as part of the state’s annual “Great California Shake Out.”
At Valley of Enchantment Elementary School (VOE) in Crestline, over 521 students participated in the duck-and-cover exercise, up from 494 last time. This is a higher number than in previous years, due higher enrollment figures.
Prior to the annual Shake Out drill, teachers responded to queries from students wanting to learn more about earthquakes and their causes. Some of the teachers described the role played by tectonic plates in determining the magnitude and frequency of ground-shaking events. Others just reminded their students of how to duck and cover because it has been over a year since they have been in school.
According to VOE Principal Bruce Hamilton, the whole purpose is to train the students on what to do during an earthquake, fire or lock-down, should there be a person with a gun on campus.
When asked what happens if a student doesn’t follow directions, Hamilton responded, “We provide them with more instruction and they do pretty good most of the time.” Hamilton added that the school does one of the three major drills about once a month.
Then came the announcement over the school’s intercom system advising all students, teachers and visitors to the campus to duck and cover beneath the nearest desk, table or other furniture for protection in case part of the building is compromised, or a piece of the ceiling falls down in a real earthquake. Students wasted no time in appropriately dropping to the floor, covering their heads and holding onto the legs of their tables and chairs.
When the all-clear signal was given, the students emerged from their protective stance and re-seated themselves and the teachers complimented them for a job well done.
“Today, most of the students are in their classrooms, while some of them will be on the playground during recess to see how they react. This is something we haven’t done before,” added Hamilton.
At the end of the drill, all teachers took their students out to the playground where they lined up and roll was taken. Out on the blacktop, at the end of the drill, Hamilton collected attendance sheets from every classroom to make sure no one was missing.
Hamilton, who previously taught in Barstow and has a master’s degree from Concordia University, said, “Generally, they did better than we expected. One of the things we do is assure students that they are safe on campus.”
The principal, who had been kicking soccer balls into the field and watching the students retrieve them before the drill began, seemed to have an excellent rapport with the students during this confidence-building session.
Summing up the importance of practicing earthquake safety, Hamilton stated, “This has been a great learning experience. It’s good to practice in a non-emergency situation, so they will know what to do if there is a real earthquake.”