Eve Barrows (left) and other students duck and cover beneath desks during an earthquake drill at Port Susan Middle School on Thursday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Eve Barrows (left) and other students duck and cover beneath desks during an earthquake drill at Port Susan Middle School on Thursday in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

‘Drop, cover, hold on!’ Stanwood kids hear new alarms in quake drill

The Great ShakeOut offered a dress rehearsal Thursday for a new system that aims to warn before the tremors start.

STANWOOD — An alarm reverberated through classrooms Thursday morning at Port Susan Middle School in Stanwood.

“Earthquake!” a voice repeated over the intercom. “Expect shaking! Drop, cover, hold on! Protect yourself now!”

Sixth- and seventh-grade students in Daniel McCrumb’s classroom got out of their chairs and crouched under their desks.

“Make sure your head and neck and everything is under the table,” said McCrumb, a science teacher, “in case the roof started having debris come down.”

A few seconds later, the drill ended.

The children were among more than 1 million Washingtonians who participated Thursday in the world’s largest earthquake and tsunami drill, the “Great ShakeOut.” This year, the exercise looked different for the Stanwood-Camano School District, because all 13 of its schools are now equipped with an automated earthquake warning system, ShakeAlert. The alarms were triggered by a simulated activation of the system.

Snohomish County is within range of a few major faults that pose earthquake danger.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone could trigger a 9.0 megaquake known in the Pacific Northwest as “The Big One,” and it’s due any day.

The southern Whidbey Island fault is less known and less studied, and because it runs right through Snohomish County, experts believe it could cause damage as bad or worse for local residents. The fault zone cuts through Puget Sound in a diagonal line roughly from Port Townsend to southern Whidbey Island, then continues east to the Cascades.

SPECIAL REPORT: A massive earthquake is expected to hit the Northwest

Stanwood is at risk due to both faults.

Seventh-grader Karina Prakash, 12, said the drill was good practice.

“It was so sudden,” Prakash said, “You just have to listen for someone to tell you what to do before you take action. If it happens too quickly, you might not have enough time to duck under something.”

Prakash said she felt more relaxed about the threat of an earthquake after the drill.

ShakeAlert was created by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2006. Today, over 1,000 seismic monitors cover the West Coast. They are the first line of defense to detect quakes.

VIDEO: A simulation of tsunami waves on Washington’s coast and the San Juans

As soon as monitors sense the waves, they transmit the location and amount of shaking to a processing center. If the quake is above a certain magnitude, an alert is sent to residents in the shake zone in seconds.

Those alerts should get to people moments before the first wave hits, unless they are near the epicenter, said Gabriel Lotto, outreach manager for ShakeAlert.

Lotto encouraged people to be ready.

Most earthquake injuries in the U.S. are caused by non-structural things in buildings, Lotto said, such as light fixtures, furniture, ceiling tiles or wine bottles. Spending a small amount of money to secure things in a building has the potential to prevent injuries.

ShakeAlert has become more widespread in schools and public places. In the Stanwood-Camano School District, the warning system is plugged directly into the PA system, and that provides people with more warning ahead of time.

Video provided by Pacific Northwest Seismic Network / University of Washington

“There’s no person that gets an alert on their phone and calls a P.A. announcement,” Lotto said. “It’s all streamlined. If you have a human in the way, it really slows things down.”

Any school that wants to install the ShakeAlert alarm system should contact Lotto’s lab at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, he said. Lotto said his lab hopes to eventually equip every school in the region with the warning system.

“If you have a fire alarm, then you should have an earthquake alarm,” he said.

Lotto said the alarm system could eventually be used in electronic warning signs on highways.

RESOURCES: Be prepared for a major earthquake

“The sign could say: ‘Earthquake coming, slow down, pull over,’” Lotto said. “You really don’t want to be driving on some bridges and structures during an earthquake. If we could warn people a few seconds in advance, it could potentially save lives.”

“People hear about a massive earthquake, and they think: ‘Well there’s nothing I can do about that. It’s just going to kill everyone,’” Lotto added. “That’s just fundamentally not true.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

Talk to us

More in Local News

A Sound Transit train arrives at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. (Sue Misao / Herald file) May 2019
Should light rail skip Paine Field and Boeing? We asked, you answered

More than 300 Herald readers responded to an online poll. Here are the results.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Lynnwood City Council members, from left: Jim Smith, Shirley Sutton, Shannon Sessions, Josh Binda, George Hurst, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, and Patrick Decker. (City of Lynnwood)
No penalty for Lynnwood council member’s ‘underinformed’ views on racism

The City Council didn’t censure Jim Smith after a report found he discriminated against a Black city employee.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

Conceptual rendering for a future section of Smokey Point Boulevard between 174th Place NE and 200th Street NE. (City of Arlington)
Plan seeks to transform Smokey Point Blvd. into ‘neighborhood corridor’

City officials hope roundabouts, sidewalks and more will turn 2 miles of busy road into a neighborhood street.

Genghin Carroll, 8, walks up and high fives his mom Andria Carroll after riding the ferry over to meet her for a dental appointment on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Welcome aboard, kids! Ferry rides are free for those 18 and under

The move to let children ride ferries for free is the latest result of Move Ahead Washington legislation.

Judge Paul Thompson, left, with Strom Peterson and his wife Maria Montalvo after being is sworn in Wednesday afternoon at the Snohomish County Administration Building in Everett, Washington on September 29, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
State Rep. Peterson appointed to Snohomish County Council

Carin Chase had by far the most supporters present Thursday, but it was Strom Peterson who won the council’s unanimous vote.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. All public and private schools in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties must close for six weeks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Police: Student, 15, arrested with loaded gun at Edmonds high school

Around 1 p.m., students reported a classmate with a gun at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

A woman was injured in an attack Sunday at Clark Park in Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Police: Purse snatching in Everett park led to stabbing

A Snohomish woman, 36, was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.

Most Read