Langley joins B.C. ShakeOut

When Langley MLA and Minister of Children and Families Mary Polak dropped by a local elementary school to watch an earthquake drill on Wednesday, she became more than a mere observer.

Belmont principal Liz Tuck decided to put Polak and her executive assistant to use.

“You could pretend to be parents panicking,” Tuck told them.

“And going over to the relief centre and just arriving and saying ‘where’s my kid, I need my kid.’”

Tuck pointed the two visitors toward a temporary awning set up in the Langley school playground.

“They’re going to pretend to be demanding parents,” Tuck shouted at the woman manning the relief centre desk.

The pair tried but were unable to convince the staffer to release the imaginary children because they were not able to prove they were the custodial parents.

“Certainly we were grilled by the administration,” Polak said.

That is a must, Tuck told students.

“We have to make sure that you’re going home with the right person,” she said.

A few minutes earlier, Belmont teacher Sandy Fast was walking her Grade 6 class through a simulated major earthquake that began with the groaning and cracking sounds of an earth tremor played through the school public address speakers.

Students huddled underneath their desks during the two minutes of imaginary shaking before Fast allowed them to stand up.

“You need to carefully move out if you can,” Fast said.

She reminded them to check each other for possible injuries before getting their jackets and backpacks and heading outside to the playground mustering area.

It was all part of the “Great British Columbia ShakeOut,” billed by organizers as the largest one-day earthquake drill in B.C. history.

More than 410,000 people registered to participate in over 135 municipalities and more than 740 schools.

The event was organized by the BC Earthquake Alliance Society, modeled on the California ShakeOut drill which is now in its third year.

Like the U.S. campaign, the B.C ShakeOut organizers aim to educate people about the proper way to ride out an earthquake, summed up in the slogan “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”

• Drop to the ground;

• Take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table;

• And hold on to it until the shaking stops;

• If you are unable to get down on the ground, brace yourself against an interior wall, protecting your head, neck and face with your arms.

Speaking in support of the event, Dr. Garry Rogers, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, noted B.C. is located in one of the most seismically active regions in the country and the threat of a major earthquake is real.

“In other parts of the world an increased awareness about what to do during an earthquake has been proven to reduce injuries and deaths,” Rogers said.

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