Some of the students in Amber Janda’s fifth-grade class at Woodman Elementary have felt earthquakes.
But until Tuesday, they hadn’t practiced what to do if a major earthquake happens during school.
“We’ve been starting to have some earthquakes in Kansas. … It kind of feels like the ground is rumbling beneath our feet,” Janda told the class. “So we’re going to practice an earthquake drill today.”
This week and next, students at every school in the Wichita district will watch a video that outlines “Drop, Cover, Hold,” a procedure advocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then they’ll rehearse the drill in their classrooms.
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“As earthquakes continue – and certainly after we had one that was fairly strong here just a little over a month ago – we decided it was time to do a little more visual training with our students,” said Terri Moses, executive director of safety services for the Wichita district.
Last summer, district officials added a two-page protocol to the district’s crisis plan that outlined what students and staff members should do if a major earthquake happens. Drills were optional.
But this fall – following a 5.6 magnitude quake that rattled homes across a wide swath of Kansas, Oklahoma and beyond – officials decided to make earthquake drills mandatory.
We decided it was time to do a little more visual training with our students.
Terri Moses, executive director of safety services for Wichita schools
The district created the earthquake-procedures video with the help of students from Southeast High School, Mayberry Middle School and OK Elementary.
Instructions call for students and staff to remember three things in the event of an earthquake: Drop, cover and hold on.
At the first indication of a major tremor, drop to your knees and take cover under a desk or table, the instructions say. While protecting your head with one arm, use your other arm to hold onto the desk or table. The goal is to shield yourself from falling ceiling tiles or other objects that can shake loose during an earthquake and cause injuries.
If you’re outside during an earthquake, you should move quickly away from buildings and overhead electrical wires and into an open area, experts say. Then sit down and wait for shocks to subside.
At Woodman Elementary in south Wichita, it took about five minutes for Janda to share the video with the class and practice dropping, covering and holding on.
“Why would we want to hold onto the table or desk?” the teacher asked.
“So it doesn’t fall?” Mikayla Jones answered.
“Think about: What does it feel like when an earthquake comes? What does it do to our bodies?”
“It shakes us,” a student said.
“It shakes,” Janda nodded. “So if our desk is shaking, it could be moving around a lot, right? We want to make sure it kind of stays over us, so if we’re holding onto it, it’s going to stay close to us and going to stay over our heads.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, southern Kansas now faces a bigger risk of a damaging earthquake than southern California.
Moses said the district modeled its video and earthquake procedures on districts in California and other regions where temblors are commonplace.
“We researched through FEMA, we watched some video drills that were used in other school districts … and then we pulled it together to make it more germane to what we’re experiencing here in Kansas,” she said.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, southern Kansas now faces a bigger risk of a damaging earthquake than southern California. Southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma have experienced just short of 6,000 earthquakes of magnitude 2.7 or more in the past two years.
Experts say the the spike in seismic activity is primarily attributed to oil and gas industry activity.