By Andrew Tisdel, FEMA Corp Member
As the imaginary earthquake arrived at Pleasantdale Elementary School, Dekalb Ga., Oct. 18, close to a hundred fourth-graders dropped to their knees and covered their heads, yelling and screaming with excitement. Seven FEMA Corps Members got down on the floor beside them, yelling “DROP! COVER! HOLD!” while struggling to hold back our guffaws. Pleasantdale’s gym filled with laughter and noise as the kids held their pose for almost a minute, before cries of “THE SHAKING HAS STOPPED! THE SHAKING HAS STOPPED!” rang out and everyone stood up.
This was the wonderful pandemonium of the Great Southeast ShakeOut, a region-wide earthquake drill that focused on educating schoolchildren in earthquake-prone areas. My FEMA Corps team volunteered to teach Pleasantdale’s youth about earthquake-related hazards, splitting them up into four groups and giving each one a kid-friendly presentation about what to do when the ground begins to shake. The mantra for the day was “Drop, Cover, Hold,” ShakeOut’s omnipresent instructions for what to do in a quake: drop to the ground, crawl under furniture or otherwise cover your head, and hold on until the shaking subsides.
The kids loved it through and through, and I confess that FEMA Corps did too. Our audiences were invariably well-behaved and attentive during the presentations, and everyone reported getting great questions from their respective groups. When the ShakeOut began, everyone dropped, covered and held like seasoned earthquake veterans. We combined fun and learning in such a way that everyone walked away happy afterwards, including a delighted bunch of Corps Members.