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Regional ShakeOut drill on Oct. 20 encourages earthquake preparedness

October 12, 2016

Building damage from the 2011 Louisa, Virginia, earthquake
Virginia experienced an earthquake on Aug. 23, 2011 that measured a 5.8 on the Richter Scale — the largest quake in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains in more than 100 years. It was felt in Blacksburg and at other Virginia Tech campuses.

Virginia Tech will participate in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut on Oct. 20.

The event is an extension of the Great ShakeOut movement that started in California and has grown to incorporate other areas including British Columbia, New Zealand, and Japan. 

“Earthquakes happen without warning, and knowing what to do before an earthquake will minimize your risk of injury," said Michael Mulhare, assistant vice president of Virginia Tech Emergency Management. "The Great SouthEast ShakeOut is an ideal opportunity to start the conversation about earthquake preparedness, identify the changes in your environment that could reduce tremor-related damage, and to review the necessary steps to protect yourself.”

At 10:20 a.m., participants are encouraged to review the necessary steps that will help ensure safety if an earthquake were to occur.

Inspect your surroundings before an earthquake occurs

Depending on the severity of the earthquake, potential damage can be reduced by considering the soundness of rooms and buildings beforehand.

  • Securely fasten shelves, picture frames, and light fixtures.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves. If possible, store breakable items behind lower latched cabinets.
  • Make building repairs on a regular basis: patch cracks in walls, ceilings, and foundations. Report any necessary repairs of Virginia Tech buildings to Facilities Services at 540-231-4300.

During an earthquake

Prepare to Drop, Cover, and Hold On, based on your location.

  • Indoors: Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it firmly. Be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops. If you are not near a desk or table, drop to the floor against the interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass. Do not go outside. 
  • In a high-rise building: Drop, cover, and hold on. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler systems or fire alarms activate. 
  • Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards. 
  • Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire. 
  • In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don't try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks.

Even after the shaking has stopped, remain cautious of aftershocks. Calmly evacuate the building or move to a clear outdoor area. Avoid elevators and do not pull fire alarms. Be cautious and on the lookout for falling debris as you evacuate.

If others are not able to evacuate the area, take note of their location and report it to emergency personnel immediately. Seek additional information from VT Alerts, emergency personnel, and local broadcast news.

To learn more about earthquake preparedness and other emergency responses at Virginia Tech, visit the Office of Emergency Management website.

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