Drill for the "Big One" leaves students quaking

As a rumbling noise flooded the public- announcement system at Esquire Hills Elementary, third graders in Debbie Gray’s class dove to the floor.

A few students shook their desks for effect.

The all-school earthquake drill at 1 p.m. Tuesday was the first of its kind at the school.

“They could win an Olympic gold medal in fire drills,” said Sandra Horst, Esquire Hills principal. While students were well-rehearsed in escaping fire, their earthquake drill skills were expected to be a little shaky.

“I was very impressed with how long the kids were on the field and stayed so well behaved,” Horst said Thursday. She met with the school staff Wednesday to go over the drill piece by piece.

The exercise was planned by Debi Fogelman, the school’s custodian. While Horst knew the gist of the scenario, surprises were thrown in to simulate the confusion of a real emergency.

After about 30 seconds the earthquake noise stopped, students flooded outside, away from the “damaged” building. Gray’s class hid under their desks. The “trapped” students were later rescued.

Outside hundreds of students lined up in their designated spot. Buddy classes pair older students with the younger ones so the older students can comfort them.

As students got settled and teachers took roll, Barb Bromley came out of the building with “blood” dripping from her head. She screamed for help as she carried kindergartner Trey Douyon. Douyon suffered cuts to his face as evidenced by the streaks of red on his skin and the sign he wore around his neck.

Bromley, a kindergarten teacher, got Douyon away from his classmates without his teacher knowing. It was meant to reinforce the importance of checking roll and following all of the procedures.

Office manager Pat Fahy logged information as Horst fielded it over a radio. There were people trapped in classrooms, an injured teacher and an unidentified person (an office chair) was found dead.

The first aid station in the covered play area had to be moved because of a fire in the gym. Water and electricity was cut to the building because of a watermain break.

“We haven’t done a drill this intense before,” Fahy said.

Students and staff will get more practice Sept. 30 when they execute the drill again.

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