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School Preparedness

ShakeOut Drill Helps Schools Prepare for Earthquakes

Found In: School Life

Educators face plenty of daily mini-disasters, from mysteriously missing homework to antsy second graders that won't sit still. But when real emergencies unfold, school personnel and students have to be prepared.

That’s where the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut comes in. Schools in 11 states, from Alabama to Illinois, are invited to participate in an earthquake drill on April 28th at 10:15 a.m. The event, on the heels of the devastating earthquake in Japan, is expected to draw over a million participants.

This is the first year of the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, but it’s been going strong for several years in earthquake-prone California, where 6.9 million people participated in 2009.

Scientists estimate that there is a 25 to 40 percent chance of an earthquake damaging the central U.S. in the next 50 years. Drills like the ShakeOut can help schools prepare for such an emergency.

Schools can sign up on the ShakeOut website to participate. The site provides a free step-by-step manual that coaches schools on earthquake preparedness. It advises teachers to instruct students to:

  • drop to the ground,
  • take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table and
  • hold on until the shaking stops.

The manual covers steps for evacuations, plans for advanced drills and debriefing information for after the drill.

The ShakeOut also offers teachers other earthquake preparedness resources, including video clips, posters, flyers and website banners. In addition, FEMA’s Earthquake Preparedness at School guide offers a wealth of suggestions for improving school facilities for earthquakes.

Not every region is at risk for earthquakes – but schools can ready themselves for other natural disasters that do pose threats. provides a state-by-state map outlining preparedness plans for potential emergencies, including floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and more.

Besides practicing drills, schools can help students and families prepare for disasters by encouraging them to make supply kits and personal disaster plans. In any disaster, an emergency supply kit is vital. Families should stock theirs with things like water, batteries, non-perishable food, prescription medications and clothing. They should also formulate a family plan, establishing where family members can meet and contact one another in case of an emergency.

Though it’s hard to predict when disasters, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, will strike, taking precautionary steps like these can help your students, staff and families stay safe.




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Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. The Guide lists the components of good crisis planning.

The Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center Information on developing, implementing, and evaluating crisis plans.

The United States Department of Education’s American Clearinghouse on Educational Facilities (ACEF) Resources on issues related to educational facility planning, design, financing, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance.