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Deputies drill for the Big One

Earthquake safety exercise tests systems and teaches "drop, cover, hold on."

October 27, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, The Valley Sun

The Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station went into disaster mode Thursday, if only for practice.

As part of the Great California Shakeout — with more than 7 million participants statewide, the nation's largest earthquake safety exercise — the station drilled for a magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

The exercise included a run-through of station evacuation, activation of its Emergency Operations Center and review of individual responsibilities there and in the field.

It all started at 10:21 a.m. with participants reacting to Capt. Dave Silversparre's announcement that a faux-quake had begun.

"Basically it's drop, cover and hold on," explained Sgt. Mike Brandoff of what event organizers, the Earthquake Country Alliance, advise all Californians to do in the event of a temblor.

The Earthquake Country Alliance is a group of government, public-safety and academic organizations that formed to promote quake safety in 2003 on the anniversary of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge Earthquake, which registered 6.7 on the Richter scale.

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The first Shakeout event was held throughout Southern California in 2007 and expanded statewide in 2008, said Margaret Vinci, manager of Caltech's Office of Earthquake Programs and a longtime member of the Alliance.

The group's official "Drop, Cover and Hold On" protocol is based on the findings of search-and-rescue workers that most quake-related injuries come from falling or moving objects.

People are advised to drop to the ground to prevent losing their balance, seek cover under a desk or other sturdy object to deflect falling debris, and hold on to their cover because even heavy objects may slide around during a violent shake.

"If you're not hanging on to the object you're under, all of a sudden it may not be there protecting you anymore," Vinci said.

She and Brandoff discouraged fleeing structures during a quake, as "many people are injured from falling objects, running through glass and falling down," Brandoff said.

The Earthquake Country Alliance also refutes the controversial Triangle of Life theory, which was developed by a disaster worker overseas and promotes crouching next to objects, rather than under them.

That theory states that in the event of a total structure collapse, it might be safer to crouch next to a desk rather than under it, because if even if the desk is crushed it could still deflect a very large falling object.

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