On Thursday, Oct. 15, participants of California’s Great ShakeOut, the world’s largest earthquake drill, practiced their duck-and-cover drills mostly at home rather than at school or work, due to the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.

Although more than 6.6 million Californians participated this year’s drill, participation was down from previous years. In 2019, 10.8 million Californians participated.

For 2020, worldwide participation was more than 29.4 million.

Of the registered participants in California, a majority participated with their school districts. Over 4 million teachers, staff and students participated in earthquake drills at K-12 schools and school districts.

With distance learning, these drills were conducted differently than teachers and students are accustomed to when done at school.

San Bernardino City Unified School District Safety Director Eric Vetere said holding the earthquake drills virtually helped student and teachers turn new attention to their earthquake safety and preparedness at home.

Classes, such as Stephen Hernandez’ Richardson HI Prep Middle School science class, interrupted their videoconference lessons with “duck, cover and hold” drills in their home environments.

“When students are in their homes they’re in an environment we don’t control,” said Vetere, “but we could have them look around for places to duck and cover, pay attention to their surroundings and encourage their families’ safety.”

In many cases, parents were able to participate in the class drills.

Teachers instructed their students how to properly duck and cover, keep away from objects in danger of falling and to use their cameras to allow the teachers to see that each student is safe.

Securing heavy objects, creating an evacuation plan, storing water, food, first aid and other emergency supplies were also encouraged.

Vetere pointed out that while students and teachers are no longer in the same room should an emergency occur during class students will still look to their teachers for guidance and calming messages.

“Accountability is still important,” Vetere said. “We know some students might be home alone. There’s still a level of responsibility to provide that leadership, same as if the teachers were in the classroom.”

“The message is that while we are in COVID we know there are still other emergencies that can impact our community and we need to be prepared for them,” Vetere added. “We shouldn’t lose sight of that.”

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