By JEROD CLAPP
JEFFERSONVILLE — After they were given the all-clear, students made their way out from under their desks and outside, where teachers performed a head count to confirm everyone made it out the building safely.
On Thursday, students and school staff in Greater Clark County Schools participated in the third-annual Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, a coordinated earthquake drill by the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium. Officials with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security oversaw the drills at Utica Elementary School.
Gerri Husband, the field services division director for IDHS, said while other disasters may be more common in the state, it’s still important to know what to do in case of an earthquake.
“Indiana may not see earthquakes every day,” Husband said. “Are tornadoes more common? Perhaps, but we are in an active fault zone.”
The New Madrid Seismic Zone, a fault line that runs through part of Southern Indiana, presents a threat of a magnitude 6 earthquake — which can cause serious damage — in the next 50 years., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Chris Ralston, the school safety and attendance officer, said every school in the district conducted the drills simultaneously, following the guidelines they have in place for earthquakes.
Husband said disaster information is good for students to know, but there are resources available for everyone online.
“We think it’s critical to educate kids and instill this information with them, but we can’t forget about everyone else,” Husband said. “That preparedness message is something we all need to embrace.
Students also learned about putting together their own emergency kits for their homes in case they need to await aid in a disaster. She said families, businesses and other people can learn how to prepare by visiting www.shakeout.org/centralus.
Don Watson, acting public information officer of IDHS, showed students an example of what a kit should include, such as a National Weather Service radio powered by batteries, a flashlight, nonperishable food and plenty of water. He said families also could include solar blankets and other items, but they don’t have to buy everything at once.
“Buy one piece at a time,” Watson said. “Buy an extra canned good or gallon of water when you go to the grocery store and put it in the pack. You can build it as extravagant or basic as you want.”
Husband said families should pack for at least three days worth of supplies in case emergency crews can’t reach them immediately.
Schools in other districts in Clark and Floyd counties reported they did not participate in the drill, but have their own earthquake drills throughout the year.
Earthquake drills are not state-mandated for school corporations.
Husband said students at Utica Elementary, though, were an excellent example of how a drill should run.
“They were a model for other schools,” Husband said. “We didn’t see any loud talking, acting silly or pushing one another around ... Every part of the school verified their students were OK. The principal, staff and administrators have done a great job here.”