Get ready to duck, cover and hold during Oct. 7 drill

L.A. Cicero Emergency Manager Keith Perry

Emergency Manager Keith Perry

On Thursday, Oct. 7, the campus community will be asked to duck, cover and hold when AlertSU sirens sound and emergency emails and calls are received. The exercise is part of a university-wide emergency drill. Emergency Manager Keith Perry said he hopes the drill will teach us how to react in an actual earthquake and will test the university's ability to account for all faculty, staff and students.

He answers questions about the upcoming drill.


Why are we doing this drill?

Stanford is not immune to emergencies, particularly earthquakes, which are a fact of life in the San Francisco Bay Area. This drill reminds everyone — staff, faculty and students — of the appropriate response to an earthquake. We have many people who are new to the campus every year. They may not have experienced an earthquake. This exercise is an opportunity for everyone to consider how he or she would respond should an emergency occur on campus.

Performing exercises is also a way of validating emergency plans. The president and provost asked that we test our plans by performing a drill that was different from past exercises and would involve the campus community in a direct way to practice emergency earthquake response and accounting procedures.

This is also a chance for faculty to talk to students about how they would respond should an emergency occur while they are in the classroom. To my knowledge, Stanford is the first university of its kind to attempt a drill of this scale. The drill is also Stanford's contribution to the Great California Shakeout exercise, which takes place every October.


Why don't you want people to know the exact time of the drill on Thursday?

To add to the realism of the event. We can't know when an earthquake may happen, so people need to be prepared no matter where they are when it occurs. The drill will start by activating the AlertSU Outdoor Warning System. When people hear the siren, they should drop, cover and hold on for about 45 seconds or until the siren stops. Then they should follow local evacuation procedures, report to their emergency assembly points and check in. To account for areas that can't hear the sirens, we will initiate an AlertSU mass notification message slightly prior to the exercise so people in areas that can't hear the sirens will have a small advance notice that the exercise is about to start.


What does drop, cover and hold mean?

Drop, cover and hold is the most effective way to avoid being injured in an earthquake. Most people are injured during an earthquake because of falling objects. To protect yourself, if you are indoors, you should drop where you are when you feel the earthquake. Then you should find a sturdy piece of furniture—a table or desk—and get under it. Then hold on to the furniture until the shaking stops. If you don't have something sturdy to get underneath, just get down next to a wall and cover your face and head with your arms.

If you are outdoors, move to an open space away from tall buildings or other objects that can fall, such as trees, telephone or light poles. Never try to leave a building while the ground is still shaking. Wait until after the earthquake is completely over to evacuate. For more about ducking and covering, visit Beat the Quake.


After we get to our assembly points, what should we do?

It's very important for everyone to check in at an emergency assembly point (EAP). One of the goals of this exercise is to evaluate our accounting procedures after an emergency. Individuals in offices and labs should check in with their department representatives. Students who are in class should check in with their faculty members; students in residences should check in with residence staff at their EAPs. Every group on campus should have a procedure for evacuating and accounting for people in their areas, whether classroom, office building or laboratory.

This will help identify whether there is anyone missing, still inside the building or in need of assistance. If people are not aware of how to report their status, they should ask their supervisors or residence hall staff members.


Should I automatically evacuate my building for every earthquake?

Not necessarily. People do not need to evacuate for the many earthquakes that are small enough to cause no damage. If the shaking causes a significant number of items to fall from shelves or break glass or cause cracks in walls, then people should evacuate so that the building can be inspected. People should always evacuate if they have information indicating that the facility is unsafe. Any time people evacuate, they should take their personal belongings and important items such as keys, wallets, purses, etc., because you never know how long the building may be closed.


What do you hope we will all learn from this drill?

We hope that the exercise will reinforce the need to be prepared for earthquakes and other emergencies and help us learn to account for one another. Research has shown that people who have practiced emergency procedures and who are confident in their abilities are much more capable of carrying out those procedures in a real emergency.

Just the process of getting ready for the exercise has prompted people to contact the Office of Emergency Management for information about emergency kits or guidance on how they can be better prepared.

We offer a monthly class on personal preparedness (EHS-5090, Personal Emergency Preparedness) that staff and faculty on campus can take. We have lots of information on Stanford plans and personal preparedness on our EH&S website.


Where would I get information in a real emergency?

In a real emergency, the university will employ as many layers of its AlertSU communications program as possible, including the mass notification system, outdoor warning system, emergency website, university information hotline (650-725-5555), KZSU 90.1 and our social media outlets, Facebook and Twitter. Staff and faculty should also be aware of any local information hotlines that have been set up to provide information about their local areas.