An annual earthquake preparedness drill in schools in the Himalayan region witnessed record turnout this year.

‘School shakeout preparedness drill’ is organised by GeoHazards International and GeoHazards Society, both NGOs, to enhance earthquake preparedness in schools located in high risk zones.

It also marks the anniversary of the great Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) earthquake which killed more than 19,000 people in 1905.

Schools from 10 States took part in the drill this year with around 50,893 students practicing the ‘drop, cover, hold on’ routines and going through safe evacuation procedures.

This involves ‘dropping’ to the ground before quake drops one; taking ‘cover’ under a sturdy desk or table; and ‘holding on’ to something sturdy until the shaking stops.

It was the first time that the attendance crossed 50,000, said Hari Kumar at GeoHazards International.

Global recognition of this event also grew with one school each from Myanmar and Bhutan taking part in the shakeout drill conducted at 11 a.m. on April 4.

Students resorted to ‘drop, cover and hold on’ routines at the sounding of a special bell and then evacuating the school building in accordance with a pre-drawn plan.

Later, they assembled in a systematic fashion in pre-decided safe assembly areas.

This was followed by a roll-call to ascertain that everybody had safely evacuated cater for any missing or injured students, just in case.

Some schools also used the opportunity to test the functioning of their first aid teams, Hari Kumar said.

A few schools deployed their own search and rescue teams to search of ‘missing’ students.

This done, the head teacher called off the drill, allowing students to go back to their respective classes. A debriefing session was later for school staff members and members of the school safety committee.

“With more cooperation and involvement from more and more State Governments, we will be able to take this message of preparedness to each and every school,” said Hari Kumar.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 22, 2013)
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