Drop, Cover, and Hold On – Becoming Earthquake-Smart in the 2017 Great ShakeOut

This week’s post was written by Jacob McAuley, Associate Regional Marketing Manager at Simpson Strong-Tie.

Every October, millions of people across the globe participate in earthquake drills as part of an event called the Great ShakeOut in order to improve their earthquake preparedness. This year, the Great ShakeOut took place on October 19 and involved more than 60 countries. In addition to the earthquake drill, participants in the event often take part in other activities such as seminars, Q&As and more. At Simpson Strong-Tie, we practiced earthquake drills at each of our major branches, and, in our Pacific Northwest region, we were part of a Reddit Ask Me Anything event (an online live Q&A) to talk about earthquake safety and answer people’s questions. Below, I discuss our participation in both of these activities.

If you’ve ever participated in an earthquake drill, you know that they can be a bit surreal. Sure, at certain points jokes are made and people laugh, because after all, it is pretend. But at other points during the drill, you will probably recall the very real threat that an earthquake presents, and you will wonder, “Would I really be prepared?” That’s why these drills are so important and why we as a company participate every year because in order to react quickly, you need to be well-practiced. Here’s a little about the drill we did.

The Great ShakeOut earthquake drill lasts only about 20 minutes and is fairly easy to prepare for and participate in (learn about how to participate here). At our Pleasanton office, where I work, at 10:19 am we heard a recording over the intercom that announced the earthquake drill was now under way. Each of us immediately did what the announcement instructed us to do: Drop, cover and hold on. The website of the ShakeOut expounds the three steps as follows: “Drop to the ground, take Cover under a table or desk, and Hold On to it as if a major earthquake were happening (stay down for at least 60 seconds).” They also recommend that during the drill, while you’re under the table, you should look around and imagine what would happen in a major earthquake and consider various potential hazards around you (e.g., items that might fall, break or cause a fire, such as lighting fixtures, unsecured bookcases or other furniture, computer or television screens, unstrapped water heaters) and how you might make them safer. Once the drill was over, another announcement indicated that we exit the building and go to a predesignated meeting area, where selected trained employees were responsible for taking roll of their assigned groups. Once everyone was accounted for, we went back in and resumed our usual workday.

Then, continuing in the spirit of preparedness, at 12:00 noon (PT), our very own Emory Montague, R&D engineering manager, joined Pacific Northwest earthquake-preparedness experts for a lively two-hour Reddit Ask Me Anything forum. The conversation is still live so be sure to check it out. The group of experts included a seismologist, two geologic hazards managers, a structural engineer (Emory), two geologists and an earthquake and volcano coordinator. Questions could be asked by anyone, and topics ranged from building safety to predictions about earthquakes to necessary earthquake supplies and more. Overall, the Ask Me Anything event was a success and helped make this a sobering and very informative Great ShakeOut day.

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.