How Utah students practiced earthquake safety during statewide emergency drill

Apr 18, 2024, 4:47 PM | Updated: 7:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — School started as usual Thursday morning at Canyon View Elementary in Cottonwood Heights. But within a few minutes, it was obvious the day would be a little different.

Instead of sitting at their desks, students climbed under them.

“I grew a lot lately,” said Henry Dunn, a second grader, “so under the desk was small.”

It was part of the Great Utah ShakeOut, a statewide event during which people in schools, offices, and homes practice for an earthquake.

“I think it’s so important for students to just be aware of what they can to do protect themselves,” said Heidi Wilcox, a second-grade teacher at Canyon View.

After an announcement went out over the PA system alerting students of the beginning of the earthquake drill, Wilcox gave simple instructions – drop, cover, and hold.

Students rushed to their desks and climbed under, staying put while simulated earthquake sounds were played over the loudspeaker.

“I think it can be a little scary for them to do that,” Wilcox said, “especially for such a long time.”

But she climbed under a table, too, giving her students encouragement as the drill proceeded. After the “earthquake” was over, students were instructed to stay put for another 60 seconds – an important safety measure.

“You do need to stay holding on for another 60 seconds,” said Kierstin Draper, the school’s principal, “just to make sure that the shaking doesn’t start again.”

The entire school then evacuated outside, waiting until the all-clear was given to head back to class.

“This is a drill where we really do need to be prepared,” Draper said, “because it really could happen.”

Thousands participate in annual ‘Great Utah ShakeOut’ earthquake drill

Four years ago, the Canyon View students weren’t in class when the 5.7 magnitude quake hit the Salt Lake Valley, shaking people out of their beds and causing some damage.

But Draper said going through the ShakeOut drill now is important – in case a bigger quake hits in the future.

“We’ve had a lot of earthquakes around the world,” she said, “and we’ve seen that they can do a lot of damage.”

All told, it was definitely an unusual start to the school day.

“It was a long earthquake drill,” said 8-year-old Rowan McMahon, also a second grader.

But Canyon View students said the drill helped them know what to do if the earth ever does start to shake.

“I would go under my desk,” Rowan said.

For more earthquake safety tips, click here.

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How Utah students practiced earthquake safety during statewide emergency drill