PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — All around Santa Monica, and throughout California, emergency responders are getting ready to rumble in anticipation of the state’s third annual Great Shakeout on Thursday, an earthquake simulation that last year had nearly 7 million registered participants.
In Santa Monica, the drill is a the biggest coordinated test of disaster response systems, officials said, and an important opportunity for various agencies to gauge the effectiveness of emergency protocols. It’s set for 10:21 a.m. on Thursday.
Following the simulated 7.8-magnitude monster quake, fire and police personnel will practice crisis communication procedures and simulate citywide damage surveys, said Paul Weinberg, City Hall’s emergency services coordinator.
While the drill’s usefulness as a dry-run for emergency professionals is clear, the Great Shakeout is largely aimed at civilians who may not be prepared for the big one.
In fact, 90 percent of injuries during earthquakes are easily preventable, Weinberg said, and could be avoided by simply taking appropriate shelter when the shaking starts.
City Hall, various social service providers, private companies and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District are all taking part. Some participating groups will be practicing evacuations and simulated “search and rescue” procedures. Others will simply be using their intercoms to encourage people to “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”
At the local branch of the Red Cross, Executive Director John Pacheco said his organization plans to run through all the motions of disaster response, interfacing with as many as 50 social service organizations that offer lifeline services and are part of the Santa Monica Organization Active in Disasters (SMOAID).
Local public schools will also be going all out.
“Every school is going to do a full earthquake drill and the central office is going to open and activate its emergency operations center,” said Marolyn Freedman, SMMUSD’s director of student services.
The drill both reduces the likelihood of panic in case of the real thing, she said, and provides an opportunity for teachers to explain the importance of keeping a week’s worth of emergency supplies on hand — a step City Hall has been promoting through the “Santa Monica I’ve Got 7” program.
“I think it’s really important that everybody has seven days of supplies,” she said.
While there’s still plenty of unprepared people out there, she said many are growing more cautious.
“I think more and more people are seeing the importance of earthquake preparedness,” she said.