I moved to the Seattle area at the age of 11 and somehow I missed the educational piece around how to respond to an earthquake. Coming from Illinois, I was very familiar with the Tornado warning system and the blaring sirens that would alert you to take cover. We practiced the response to Tornadoes at both home and school. It was taught and tested regularly. Which makes sense, because we want to teach our bodies what to do, in the event that we are put in harms way. We don't want to have to think it through in a panicked state, as that will likely lead to poor decision making.
Instead, we should be teaching and practicing "Drop, Cover and Hold On", as depicted in the image below:
I often think back to the Nisqually earthquake of 2001 and sigh at my response to the shaking. At the time, I lived in an apartment in Seattle on Dexter Avenue, which is located on the East side of Queen Anne overlooking Lake Union. For those of you familiar, you know how busy that road can get. There are buses, semis, cars, bikes, etc. on that well traveled road. When the earthquake occurred, I was working from my home office and thought that a semi was having a hard time climbing the gradual hill. Then it dawned on me that we were experiencing an earthquake. I quickly jumped up from my chair, mistake #1, and moved to the doorways (of which there were 5 within a few feet of one another) and closed the doors that could have glass or mirror breakage and selected the door to my master bedroom to seek cover, mistake #2!
I learned some years later that I should have simply dropped under my desk and held on to ensure that any items that could fall would fall upon the desk rather than me. I also learned that the doorway is no longer recommended as a viable location to seek cover and that in fact the door itself could potentially induce injury.
As a consultant on disaster preparedness, I encourage people to practice earthquake drills both at home and at work, at least twice a year. The Great Shakeout, a worldwide earthquake drill, occurs in October, so we selected May as it is almost half a year away.
We encourage you to go to the The Great Shakeout to register for the event in October, get tips on developing an effective drill and spread the word with friends and family. Here are some additional Audio Resources, that would work great at home or in the workplace, if you have a P.A. system, or you could have several people play it on their computers at the same time in different areas.
Make the drills fun! Have everyone gather afterwards and share the challenges. Determine if you are going to do a surprise or scheduled drill beforehand. Both have value, however I will warn you that folks who do not want to participate may choose to leave the office prior to scheduled drills. You might position people at exits to encourage participation or better yet have Upper Management require participation.
So, what is stopping you from a "Drop, Cover and Hold On" drill? After all, practice makes perfect!