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

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

Suspected DUI crash injures trooper on I-5 north in Lynnwood

WSP spokesperson said two suspected impaired drivers have crashed into a state trooper in the past 24 hours.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

People hang up hearts with messages about saving the Clark Park gazebo during a “heart bomb” event hosted by Historic Everett on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Future of historic Clark Park gazebo now in hands of City Council

On June 5, the Everett council is set to decide whether to fund removal of the gazebo. It could be stored elsewhere.

Brian Hennessy leads a demonstration of equipment used in fire training at the Maritime Institute in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘Ready to go full sail’: Maritime Institute embarks at Port of Everett

The training facility offers Coast Guard-certified courses for recreational boaters and commercial vessel operators.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.