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ShakeOut Podcast 2013

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Detailed Description

A worldwide earthquake drill, known as the Great ShakeOut, will be held on Thursday, October 17 at 10:17AM local time. The drill is your chance to practice how to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake. Mike Blanpied, the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, and Mark Benthien, the Director of Communication, Education and Outreach with the Southern California Earthquake Center and coordinator of the Great ShakeOut worldwide, have come to discuss the importance of earthquake preparedness.




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Ethan Alpern: Hello and welcome to USGS CoreCast. I’m your host, Ethan Alpern. A worldwide earthquake drill, known as the Great ShakeOut, will be held on Thursday, October 17 at 10:17AM local time. You are all invited to sign up and participate. The drill is your chance to practice how to protect yourself in the event of an earthquake.

To give us some details on ShakeOut, we are joined today by two guests. First is Mike Blanpied, the Associate Program Coordinator for the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. Our second guest is Mark Benthien, the Director of Communication, Education and Outreach with the Southern California Earthquake Center, also referred to as SCEC. Mark also coordinates the Great ShakeOut worldwide. Welcome, Mike and Mark. Thanks for joining us.

Mike Blanpied: Great to be here.

Mark Benthien: Ethan, thanks for having us. 

Ethan Alpern: Mike, what is ShakeOut and why is this drill so important? 

Mike Blanpied: Well ShakeOut is the opportunity to learn and prepare how to stay safe during an earthquake. Earthquakes spring upon us at any time. We never know that they’re about to hit. The key component of the ShakeOut is a drop, cover, and hold on exercise. So at 10:17, we will pretend that an earthquake is just beginning to hit, and that’s the moment to dive underneath a desk, a table, or another strong object to keep yourself safe in case things fall down.

One can go beyond the drop, cover, and hold exercise and practice how an organization, or a family, or a business can react both during an earthquake and then afterwards. How do people stay in touch? Where should people go? What supplies need to be kept on hand, and so forth? All of this can be practiced now, so that when an earthquake does happen, we’re all prepared. 

Ethan Alpern: Mark, where is ShakeOut and how can we participate? 

Mark Benthien: In 2013, we expect more than 20 million people to participate worldwide. Now most of these will participate in what we call, “ShakeOut regions” and that includes 43 states and territories in the U.S. as well as other countries. You can go to to see the different regions, but even if you’re not in one of these regions you can still register on the website to participate and be counted in the global toll.

Ethan Alpern: Mark, what makes ShakeOut different than other earthquake preparedness drills?

Mark Benthien: The social science research says that people are more likely to get prepared when they see other people get prepared or when they talk with other people about their preparedness. We’ve really been trying to put that in the practice of ShakeOut by having it something big that everybody will talk about, they’ll see on the news, they’ll see people doing the right thing rather than the wrong thing, like running out of buildings during earthquakes or just not doing anything that’s going to protect you from the things that are falling.

Ethan Alpern: Mike, why should we all be excited to ShakeOut?

Mike Blanpied: When an earthquake drill happens we get to practice, and so we know what to do without thinking next time. You want to be able to know where to go, immediately get under that desk, get under the table, know that you’re going to fit there.

And also this drill gives you an opportunity to look around your office, your room, your home. Where are these things that might fall down? Is there something you can do to make your space safer so that when an earthquake does happen, that things won’t fall down on you?

Ethan Alpern: Mark, why should people who don’t live in earthquake-prone regions participate in ShakeOut?

Mark Benthien: I really believe that everyone, everywhere should know how to protect themselves during earthquakes. While you might not live in earthquake country, where earthquakes happen frequently or can be quite large, it’s certainly possible that you might travel one day to California or somewhere else where there can be a large earthquake while you’re there. And the purpose of ShakeOut is to give you that opportunity to practice because then you’re more likely to respond appropriately when an earthquake happens. 

Ethan Alpern: Mike, what is the USGS involvement in ShakeOut?

Mike Blanpied: Well, the USGS led development of a comprehensive scenario for a large earthquake, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas, and this formed part of the basis for the first ShakeOut held in Southern California in 2008. And we’ve been participating in the ShakeOut ever since. The USGS science does provide the basis for understanding where earthquakes are likely to hit—how much shaking there is likely to be—and our scientific information can help prepare communities, businesses, and building codes so that we help to make the country safer. Here in USGS Headquarters, all 1800 people in this building will be participating in a drop, cover, and hold drill on October 17 and other USGS offices around the country are participating as well. In Hawaii, where they’re having their first state-wide ShakeOut, the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory is actually helping to lead the organization of that drill.

Ethan Alpern: Mark, could you provide us with a brief history of ShakeOut, and your goals for the future?

Mark Benthien: The first Shakeout was held in 2008 in Southern California. A group of us in an organization called the Earthquake Country Alliance wanted to see how we could involve the general public, and businesses, and schools, and many others in an emergency preparedness exercise, and, ever since, other states and countries have been joining each year. Until 2012, we had more than 19.5 million participants. This year, we anticipate there being more than 20 million people involved in ShakeOut worldwide. And for a few more years to increase participation across the U.S. and in other countries. We also want to, of course, involve more people where we already are, and to really be looking at their overall preparedness planning and other aspects of overall earthquake safety.

Ethan Alpern: 2014 has a couple of important anniversaries when it comes to earthquakes. Mike and Mark, could you please tell us about them? 

Mike Blanpied: Well, one important anniversary is of the 1964 earthquake in Alaska that occurred on March 27th of that year. That was a magnitude 9.2 earthquake and the second biggest earthquake we’ve ever known about. That earthquake caused quite a bit of damage to the city of Anchorage, and also spawned a tsunami that crossed the Pacific causing damage in Northern California and elsewhere. The USGS and other organizations are collaborating on a number of activities, including scenarios, new science drills, and preparedness information and exercises.

Mark Benthien: 2014 is also the anniversary of two historic and very important earthquakes in California—the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco region and also the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California.

Ethan Alpern: Mark, do you have any other comments about ShakeOut? 

Mark Benthien: What’s really making ShakeOut a success is that many organizations are coming together to work, to communicate to the public about how to participate, about what to do to protect themselves. We have the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), USGS of course, the support of the Southern California Earthquake Center, many state and local organizations that, working together, are involving all of these people.

Ethan Alpern: How about you, Mike?

Mike Blanpied: Well, ShakeOut is a great opportunity to practice and it can be a lot of fun to do so. And remember, just at the end of the day, our goal is to make sure people are safe in earthquakes and this is one way we’re going to get there. 

Ethan Alpern: Thank you Mike and Mark for joining us today. And thank you to all of our listeners.

Although the ShakeOut is just days away, it is not too late to register and participate. You can do so by visiting Remember, ShakeOut is Thursday, October 17 at 10:17AM local time. CoreCast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.

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