Make ShakeOut a Family Affair

“A, B, C.”  

“1, 2, 3.”

“I love you.”

If you’re a mom, you’re used to communicating in only a few syllables at a time. I can usually boil sentences down to two (“Stop it”) or better yet -- one (“No”). Without morning coffee, I’ve been known to convey a great deal with just a stare.

But some of the most important syllables in my tidy repertoire are “Drop, Cover, Hold On”. They’re words every kid living in an earthquake zone should know, understand and practice.

If you haven’t talked about them yet, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity every October. The Great British Columbia ShakeOut runs the third Thursday of every October, when participants from across BC will practice how to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” during provincewide drills. Be a joiner and sign up your family. It takes two minutes.

Can’t wait? Then don’t. Start now and stage a few practice drills at home. Want to know exactly why huddling under the kitchen table is a good idea? Read on for the scoop.  

More than a pithy catchphrase

There’s actually solid science behind “Drop, Cover, Hold On.” Studies of quake-related injuries and fatalities confirm taking cover quickly increases the odds of staying safe. 

  • Drop: Getting to the ground under your own steam means a quake won’t get you there instead – potentially with nasty owies. If you’re nowhere near a desk or table, get low and try to protect your head and neck.
  • Cover: Getting under a sturdy desk or table will shield you from falling and flying objects. In reality, you’re more likely to be injured by airborne debris than die in a collapsed building. 
  • Hold On: Whatever you’re under will likely shift. Get a good grip and stay put. When the shaking stops, do your best to count to 60 before getting up, giving unstable objects a chance to settle. 

This is usually the time people say, "That’s great if I’m sitting at my desk or kitchen table all day. What if I’m driving? What if I’m cruising the mall? Good questions. ShakeOut has a great primer on those potential scenarios.

Myth Busting

Stand in a doorway? Nope, not a good idea. Apparently this bit of poor advice originates from an early earthquake photo of a collapsed adobe home with an intact door frame. With modern construction, doorways are no stronger than anywhere else in a building. Most importantly, door frames won’t shield you from flying objects.

Run outside? Nope, not a good idea either. Running outside makes you an even greater target for flying glass, bricks and other structural debris. Stay put and under cover.

The triangle of life? Someone at some point probably told you to get next to a table, rather than under it. This is the “triangle life”, and nope, not a good idea. Best place is under something.