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Recording helps with realism of ShakeOut drill


Washington Emergency Management Director Robert Ezelle demonstrates the “duck,
cover and hold on” strategy under the table in the policy room of the state Emergency
Operations Center. The Great Washington ShakeOut takes place the third Thursday each October.

Recording helps with realism of ShakeOut drill

With his portable emergency kit in tow, Washington Emergency Management Director Robert Ezelle squeezed under a table a few days before the Great ShakeOut, the state’s annual earthquake drill.

This year’s drill allowed anyone to participate, not just on the actual date of Oct. 15, but days before that or even after. The point, says earthquake programs manager John Schelling, is just to get the public to participate.

“It’s great if someone can do it on Oct. 15, but if they can’t, just practice when you can,” Schelling says. “The important part is just to practice.”

Ezelle, as the head of the state division responsible for preparedness, wanted to show people how it was done. To help the experience, the Great ShakeOut has audio and video recordings available to make the scenario feel more realistic.

“This is the Great ShakeOut, one of the largest earthquake drills ever,” the recording says with sound effects in the background (access the recording via the link).

“Practice now so you can protect yourself during a real earthquake,” the recording adds over the next minute. “This is an earthquake drill. Right now, drop, cover and hold on. During a real earthquake, the ground might jerk strongly and knock you down so protect yourself from objects that can be thrown across the room.”

Ezelle, ducking under a table in the state Emergency Operation Center’s policy room and putting his arms around his head to protect it, said the audio makes it feel a bit more realistic.

“It’s a great intro and something people can play that adds impetus to the drill,” Ezelle said.


Washington Emergency Management Director Robert Ezelle posed
under a table with an emergency kit after practicing for the Great Washington ShakeOut. 

In 2014, more than 1 million people across the state participated. And another 1 million people signed up for this year’s test.

In addition to earthquake planning, coastal communities are working on tsunami preparation.

Tsunami warning sirens on coastal Washington are activated at 10:15 a.m., October 15 and includes the real sound of the siren – along with messages indicating it is a test. Typically, monthly tests include the playing of the Westminster chimes, followed by an abbreviated voice message. But it’s important to test out the real siren sounds so the public is familiar with its sound and local governments can use it as a training opportunity. All counties with the All Hazard Alert Broadcast sirens are expected to participate except for Whatcom County, which has opted out at this time, but may participate in a future year.

This year, there’s also a push to have people take pictures of themselves under desks or using proper earthquake techniques and post those photos to social media using the hashtag #washakeout.

More information on ShakeOut can be found online and via Twitter

The drill is typically done the third Thursday in October. Next year’s ShakeOut will be held at 10:13 a.m., Oct. 13, 2016.