Millions join 'Shakeout' drill

  • Becoming Independent client JimMiller ducks under his desk at the sheltered workshop during the state-wide earthquake drill at 10:21 AM Thursday.

Becoming Independent's sprawling southwest Santa Rosa site is filled with tables where developmentally disabled clients work, make art, learn computers and eat.

On Thursday staff and clients scrambled under tables Thursday as part of a statewide earthquake drill dubbed The Great California ShakeOut.

Because of an earlier drill in August, Gloria P. Huerta Jr. said she knew right away what to do and crawled under the table where she'd been drawing. She later demonstrated how she covered her head and pink ball cap with her hands.

Paula Scarborough was prevented by her wheelchair from dropping to the floor and crawling under anything but she said: "I just knew what to do." And that was to cover her head and neck with her arms and hands as she'd been told.

That's the point, organizers said.

An earthquake comes with no warning and little opportunity to seek safety, so those living in earthquake country need to think ahead and practice what to do so it comes automatically.

With experts predicting a 63 percent chance that the Bay Area will have a quake measuring 6.7 or greater by 2038, residents need to learn how to reduce injuries and figure out how to rely on themselves for at least several days afterward.

More than a million Bay Area residents — including nearly 50,000 in Sonoma County — were registered to take part in Thursday's 10:21 a.m. drill, which was expected to have statewide participation of more than 7.8 million people.

At Becoming Independent, the staff has to consider the safety of 500 people, most of them clients and some of them working or traveling outside the facility, said Cami Weaver, chief executive officer of the agency, which provides work opportunities, training, recreation and other services for the developmentally disabled.

The agency recently brought earthquake drills into its regular rotation of emergency drills, and those off-site at 10:21 a.m. Thursday were told to look around wherever they were — at Mary's Pizza, FoodMaxx, or on the road between two points — and to talk about what they would do if an earthquake were to strike, said Lois Shelton, director of administration.

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