Students at Nanaimo's Quarterway Elementary School scrambled under their desks at exactly 10:17 a.m on Thursday morning.
The youngsters pretended to seek cover from falling debris as they took part in the annual Great B.C. ShakeOut, the province's largest annual earthquake drill.
The more than 300 students at the school were among approximately 700,000 students, office workers and others from across B.C. who participated in the annual exercise at the same time, intended to get people to practise the skills needed if and when the "big one" hits.
The students at Quarterway participate in two earthquake and four fire drills each year that require them to evacuate their school, and it typically takes them approximately three minutes to evacuate the building. Hundreds of office workers at the City of Nanaimo also participated in the exercise that required them to drop to the ground, take cover and hold on until the shaking stops; actions that can reduce injury and death during earthquakes.
Jason Duchak, the city's occupational health and safety coordinator, said city workers at the new Services and Resource Centre and the newly renovated city hall downtown were particularly challenged during this year's ShakeOut as they are operating in new facilities, but they performed "remarkably well."
"There was some confusion around co-ordinating escape routes from the building, but these exercises are meant as learning experiences and we're always learning something new and determining what went right and what went wrong," Duchak said. "We'll be holding a debriefing (today) on the exercise to see what improvements can be made to our procedures."
A recent survey by the B.C. Automobile Association, which is a sponsor of the ShakeOut earthquake drill, indicated 78 per cent of British Columbians do not know how to prepare their home for an earthquake.
Dominique Sullivan, a teacherlibrarian at Quarterway school who is in charge of the school's earthquake preparations, said students are taught to take cover under their desks and count to 60, or until the shaking stops, before coming out and preparing to evacuate the building.
She said the school, like many others in the district, has an emergency kiosk that is separate from the school that contains supplies, such as food, water and first-aid equipment in the event of an earthquake.
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