More than 2,000 students at Golden Valley High School dropped, covered and held on as part of the state’s annual Great California ShakeOut Drill.
The Great California ShakeOut, observed by more than 10 million Californians Thursday morning, was created in 2008 by the U.S. Geological Survey to raise awareness for earthquake preparedness and recovery efforts.
At Golden Valley, the drill began at 9:40 a.m. when an announcement came over the loudspeaker telling students to take cover for 90 seconds before evacuating to the perimeter of campus.
Joel Nelson, assistant principal of Golden Valley High School and safety officer for the disaster drill, said the drill went as well as the school hoped it would.
“Today we were able to do the duck and cover and evacuate in about six to eight minutes,” Nelson said. “The goal time is eight minutes to get everybody out… We probably had everybody down here in five to six minutes with a few slower groups at the end.”
What makes Golden Valley’s annual drill unique is its attention to detail and real-time simulation of an earthquake response effort.
The high school sets up a command post to relay information between staffers, a student status team, a first aid team, a search and rescue team, a crisis team and eight emergency response teams.
Nelson said the emergency response teams replicate their actions after an earthquake, checking every classroom and building for students who may be injured or deceased following the disaster.
“We were able to get our search and rescue teams out to check buildings and simulate a few injured parties,” he said. “We had a few people go to our first aid team and our crisis team for assistance.”
Beside all of its response work and disaster simulation, the most important element of the drill is insuring the safety of Golden Valley’s student body.
“Our planning never ends,” Nelson said. “Our biggest challenge and the most important thing we do is to look out for the safety of our students, our staff and our parent community that are here.”
When “The Big One” does hit, high schools like Golden Valley will be the primary meeting spots for families and emergency response teams.
“If there’s a major earthquake the high schools are the best place to house people because we have gyms that the Red Cross can put cots in and you can put 1,000 people in there,” Golden Valley health and college readiness teacher Tony Moskal told his class before the drill began.
In addition to the capacity of the high school, Golden Valley has its own Disaster Storage Bin full of first-aid kits, emergency response bags, food, water, stretchers and other emergency supplies.
“We’ve had safety plans in place since the school opened as do all of our schools,” Nelson said. “We want the kids and parents to know that this is the safe place to be.”
On Twitter @_ChristinaCox_