'I feel the earth move under my feet'

— Great Idaho Shakeout to test earthquake preparedness Oct. 20

The ground in Idaho will shake violently Oct. 20 but no one will feel it because it will be a simulated earthquake, not an actual disaster. Emergency responders throughout the state will participate in the annual Great Idaho ShakeOut to test earthquake preparedness.

At precisely 10:20 a.m. drill participants will DROP to the floor, COVER their heads from potential falling debris and HOLD ON to whatever is securely anchored. It will be Idaho’s largest earthquake drill, according to information from the state’s Bureau of Homeland Security.

The exercise is designed to practice the lifesaving actions that should ble taken during an actual earthquake, BHS explains.

“Earthquakes happen when least expected. When each second counts, immediate quake-safe actions will save lives and minimize injuries. What's at stake is the ability of people to survive and recover quickly from the effects of one of nature's most powerful and destructive forces.”

The drill provides an opportunity for individuals and emergency responders to prepare now so they will know how to reach if or when an earthquake actually occurs. Preparation and practice improves the odds of surviving and recovering from an earthquake.

Experts emphasize the importance of participating in the drill and registering in advance at www.ShakeOut.org/idaho.

The website includes guidelines for what to do before, during and immediately after an earthquake, as well as downloadable emergency supply checklists (food, water, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and emergency supplies and special items for medical conditions), tips for food and water storage, and information on the seismic vulnerability of Idaho.

Why is it important to do a Drop, Cover, and Hold On drill? To react quickly you must practice often. You may only have seconds to protect yourself in an earthquake, before strong shaking knocks you down--or drops something on you. Practicing helps you be ready to respond.

What to do during an earthquake
If you are inside a building, move no more than a few steps, then Drop, Cover and Hold On:

DROP to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!),
Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and
HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. In most Idaho buildings you are safer if you stay where you are until the shaking stops.

If you are outdoors when the ground begins to shake, you should find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold On. Stay there until the shaking stops.

If you are driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that might have been damaged.

Look around now, before an earthquake. Identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office or school so that when the shaking starts you can respond quickly. An immediate response to move to the safe place can save lives. And that safe place should be within a few steps to avoid injury from flying debris.

Federal, state, and local emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations all agree that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes. The ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to protect yourselves during earthquakes. This page explains what to do-- and what not to do.

Protect yourself, spread the word
Official rescue teams who have been dispatched to the scene of earthquakes and other disasters around the world continue to advocate use of the internationally recognized "Drop, Cover and Hold On" protocol to protect lives during earthquakes.
If there isn’t a table or desk near you, drop to the ground in an inside corner of the building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Do not try to run to another room just to get under a table.

These are general guidelines for most situations. Depending on where you are (in bed, driving, in a theater, etc.), you might take other actions, as described in Recommended Earthquake Safety Actions (PDF).

The main point is to not try to move but to immediately protect yourself as best as possible where you are. Earthquakes occur without any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl; you therefore will most likely be knocked to the ground where you happen to be. You will never know if the initial jolt will turn out to be start of the big one. You should Drop, Cover, and Hold On immediately

In addition, studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes in the U.S. over the last several decades indicate that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building. Drop, Cover, and Hold On offers the best overall level of protection in most situations.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. To be ready to protect yourself immediately when the ground begins to shake, practice Drop, Cover, and Hold On as children do in school at least once each year.

What NOT to do:
DO NOT get in a doorway! An early earthquake photo is a collapsed adobe home with the doorframe as the only standing part. From this came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. In modern houses and buildings, doorways are no safer, and they do not protect you from flying or falling objects. Get under a table instead!

DO NOT run outside! Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous, as the ground is moving and you can easily fall or be injured by debris or glass. Running outside is especially dangerous, as glass, bricks, or other building components may be falling.

You are much safer to stay inside and get under a table.

What to do immediately when shaking begins
Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety; you didn't do anything, or you ran outside, yet you survived with no injuries. Or perhaps you got under your desk and others thought you overreacted. However, you likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much larger earthquakes: sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury.

That is why you must learn to immediately protect yourself after the first jolt... don't wait to see if the earthquake shaking will be strong!

Published 9-28-2012