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Great California ShakeOut puts local participants to the test – Monterey Herald

SEASIDE — As millions of Californians took part in the Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill on Thursday, CSU Monterey Bay learned firsthand why practice and preparedness go hand in hand.

At 10:15 a.m., students and staff signed up for CSUMB’s OTTERalert emergency notification system received a text message notifying anyone on campus to “drop, cover and hold on.” After the exercise, participants were then expected to exit buildings and meet as a designated assembly area outside.

Minutes after the drill’s announcement circulated the school, however, CSUMB’s outside campus was still largely absent of practice evacuees. While in part a function of fewer people being on site with continued options for virtual instruction, Diana Ballesteros, associate director of the college’s Otter Student Union, explained the turnout could have also been an instance of miscommunication for what an earthquake drill at CSUMB should look like, especially in a hybrid setting.

In this case, the school’s text-based alert system had spread word of the drill via phone and online, but there was no audio notice, such as a public address system announcement, that the Great ShakeOut had begun — an intentional choice by CSUMB.

“In the event of an actual earthquake, there’s no alarm,” said Walter Ryce, CSUMB public information officer. “The shaking is the alarm. The OTTERalert simulated the start of the earthquake.”

Still, the method of messaging took Ballesteros by surprise.

“I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was relying on what had happened at my previous universities, which was to have a big, loud ringing happening, but that didn’t happen here,” said Ballesteros, who experienced an emergency drill at CSUMB for the first time on Thursday. “Maybe that’s something that I need to talk to the university about to see if it was just my building or if there was even supposed to be an alarm.”

Prior to Thursday’s drill, CSUMB had provided several warnings of the ShakeOut through social media, newsletters and all campus emails. Now, having gone through the drill, the university knows what can be done better next time to ensure better communication and safety, whether that’s while facing another drill or a real emergency.

“This is why we have a drill,” said Ballesteros as she explained the importance of an event like the Great ShakeOut. “I’m a big advocate for practicing safety and emergency procedures. In general, it’s good to have practice because most of the time, people aren’t really prepared, especially for different situations.”

CSUMB is not alone in its commitment to staying prepared. Other local participants of Thursday’s drill included K-12 schools in Monterey County, Hartnell College and Monterey Peninsula College, as well as many other businesses, groups and institutions in the area.

The Great California ShakeOut began in 2008 as a drill designed to educate the public about how to protect themselves during a large earthquake, and how to get prepared. According to the Great California ShakeOut website, over 7.5 million participants from across the state were registered in this year’s drill alone.

“California is known for earthquakes large and small,” said Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Mark Ghilarducci in a press release. “It’s important to hold events like the Great ShakeOut Drill in the community to remind Californians to be prepared in advance of the next one.”

To further ensure preparedness, both local and statewide ShakeOut organizers encourage Californians to download the MyShake app, which is connected to ground motion sensors and bills itself as able to forewarn an earthquake even before shaking is felt.

More information about the MyShake app and general earthquake safety in California can be found at https://earthquake.ca.gov/.

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