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News | Oct. 13, 2021

The Great ShakeOut: what you can do to prepare for an earthquake

By William Bullock, installation emergency manager, DLA Installation Management Richmond

Emergencies can occur in the blink of an eye, with the impact ranging from temporary disruption of activities to a loss of an installation’s ability to perform its assigned missions. Employees receive warnings of approaching weather emergencies, such as blizzards, tornados, floods, etc., in time for them to take measures to minimize loss of life or property. However, there may be no warning signs when it comes to an earthquake.

Although earthquakes are rare in Virginia, there is always the possibility.

The Great ShakeOut drill started in Southern California in 2008 to educate the public on how to react in case of an earthquake. It’s now conducted internationally on the third Thursday of October. This year’s event takes place Oct. 19. There will be no physical drill conducted on Defense Supply Center Richmond this year due to the current COVID-19 environment, but information will be sent out via a system broadcast the day of the event.

The Occupant Emergency Plan, found on the Defense Supply Center Richmond Employee Emergency Preparedness sharepoint webpage, outlines the following

1. Actions you should take if you find yourself inside when an earthquake hits:

a. Drop to the ground; take cover by getting under a sturdy table or another piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there is not a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.

b. Stay away from windows, doors and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

c. Stay inside until the shaking stops and it’s safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

2.  Actions you should take if you find yourself outdoors when an earthquake hits:

a. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

b. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The most significant danger exists directly outside buildings, near exits and alongside exterior walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury.

Christopher Bales, assistant chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, DLA Installation Management Richmond, recommends taking the following actions if stuck under debris:

  1. Your main goal should be attracting rescue workers and dogs to your location so they can help get you out. Loud noises from high pitch whistles or an air horn can cause the building to start collapsing again. 

2.  If you can reach your cell phone or flashlight, you can create a signal to help speed up your rescue. Light can travel a long way and can be seen quite easily especially by dogs or robotic cameras.

3.  If you are stuck under a large object or a pile of debris, you should try to avoid any unnecessary movement