FORT LEE, Va. – All Team Lee members are expected to participate in the “Great Shakeout” Earthquake Drill that will begin at 10:18 a.m., Oct. 20.
Announcements through the ALERT! emergency warning system and official email channels will signal the start of the drill. Regardless of whether individuals receive the announcements, however, they should take steps to review and rehearse crisis response procedures.
“The annual shakeout drill is meant to emphasize the importance of planning and practice to reduce the possibility of injuries or deaths,” noted Charles Aucoin, Chief of Plans and Protection, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. “Earthquakes, in particular, are among the most destructive phenomenon in nature, and the fact they don’t happen very often works against us because people dismiss them as a reason for preparedness.”
More than 170 earthquakes have occurred in Virginia since 1977. Most were negligible; however, in 2011 much of the state experienced a 5.8 magnitude tremor emanating from an epicenter in the Louisa County area approximately 72 miles northwest of Fort Lee. It was not the first major earthquake to affect the commonwealth. The third-largest earth tremor in the eastern United States occurred here in 1897 and was reportedly felt in 12 states.
“Even though the frequency is far less than, say, a tornado or hurricane, we as a community have to pay attention to the possibility of earthquakes because they tend to occur without warning and are immediately destructive,” Aucoin said. “Consider the fact also that seeking appropriate shelter indoors is a safe course of action for weather-related storms, whereas earthquakes require additional measures such as getting under a desk or sturdy table to ensure heavy objects that are shaken loose don’t fall on you. It’s a separate aspect of emergency planning with the same premise - what actions will afford the best chance of survival?”
The shakeout drill is the right time to reflect on that question. If homes, offices, organizations, etc., are without a plan, steps should be taken to begin putting one together. The recommendation is to assess the potential hazards and practice the following immediate response procedures:
• DROP to the ground,
• COVER head and neck with arms and seek shelter by getting under a sturdy desk or table if nearby; and
• HOLD ON to the shelter and be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops.
Many injuries in earthquakes are caused by nonstructural objects – lighting fixtures, windows, ceiling tiles, etc. – falling from buildings, as well as toppling furniture and hanging objects coming loose and dropping to the floor. That’s why national safety experts recommend taking shelter under a solid object until the shaking stops. If outdoors, don’t run into a building. Find a safe spot well away from structures that can crumble or fall over, and get low to the ground to ride out the tremors. If operating a vehicle, find a safe pull-over spot away from power lines and poles.
It is important to consider also what actions to take after the earthquake. Accountability is the foremost goal, followed by assessment of the damage to determine if evacuation is necessary. A well-thought-out response plan also would include emergency contact information for police, the fire department, public works, your child’s school if applicable, and so on. Ask the question, what supplies would you need if the quake destroys power or water lines, or makes roads impassable? Take steps to prepare for that possibly by assembling or checking the contents of an emergency response kit.
There are multiple information resources on the internet to help individuals construct a thorough response plan and educate themselves on the dangers associated with earthquakes. Recommended sites include www.ready.gov/earthquakes and www.cdc.gov/disasters/earthquakes.
“Research is a proactive step. Ensuring employees are enrolled in ALERT! is one also,” Aucoin emphasized. “Every positive action puts this command closer to protecting life and property during a natural or manmade disaster. There’s no question earthquakes can happen here, as stated earlier. The shakeout drill is the ideal opportunity to ask ourselves what steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of this potentially deadly hazard.”
Service members, DOD Civilians and contactors can register for the ALERT! notification system by signing in with their Common Access Card to any computer connected to the government network. Visit alert.csd.disa.mil/AlertSplashPage to sign up. If any difficulties are encountered, seek assistance from your organization’s computer technician or the personnel manager assigned to most units.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take this seriously,” Aucoin concluded. “Don’t assume it will never happen or that you can just deal with it when it does. Learn from history. Get into the mindset that we need to protect ourselves and those we care about and love by being aware and being prepared.”