Altara Elementary School students take cover during The Great Shakeout

SANDY, Utah (ABC4 News) - Students at Altara Elementary School is Sandy were among the nearly one-million people who took part in the Great Shakeout, a worldwide drill to prepare people for earthquakes.

Thursday morning began like any other morning at Altara Elementary.  Students engaged with their teachers, raising their hands to answer questions, sitting in a comfortable spot in the classroom to read books, and worked on lessons on their laptops and tablets.  

But soon an announcement over the intercom would shake things up at bit -- literally.  The principal getting on the intercom to announce they would begin the Great Shakeout.  The drill set to prepare these students for an earthquake.  As the announcement was made 5th-grader Jackson Lo and his classmates knew exactly what to do. 

"Well first you go under your desk for safety so you don't get hit, then you grab your desk because you don't want your desk to move under your desk and then you just stay still," he said. 

But what if Jackson wasn't inside a classroom to hide under a desk?

"I would probably try to stay somewhere where there was shelter on top of me, like maybe over there by the drinking fountain," Jackson said.

Students are also taught to be on the lookout for falling objects and to be aware of what is happening as they take shelter.  If there's no shelter around they're encouraged to get to a wall and hold on and try to cover their heads.  They can also go to a door way and post up against the door frame until the shaking has stopped. 

"It's always good to practice routines so that if we do have an earthquake, and we know we live in Utah, and we live along the fault lines, that students know what to do in the event of an emergency," said Altara Elementary School Principal Nicole Sveemagann.

According to the Canyon School District, schools in the district practice an emergency drill of some sort each month to make sure their students are prepared and know what to do in the event of an emergency.   

"I think this drill is probably more important than some of the others we do because of  that off chance that it happens, we are keeping kids safe and they're practicing routines and procedures," said Sveemagann.

As students waited for instructions by the principal as the crouched under their desk while the ground metaphorically stopped shaking they were told to slowly get up, and follow their teacher out of the classroom where they would be lead out towards the playground area.  Students walking in a single file line waited as teachers counted their students as "sweepers" went through the hallways and classrooms of the school to ensure no child was left behind. 

Students here don't just learn about what to do in the event of an earthquake.  They learn what an earthquake is. 

"I've learned that earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates when they move together and that's what cause earthquakes," said Lo.  "They can go under each other like this, they can go from side to side, or they can go together to form a mountain but when they move the ground shakes so that's what causes an earthquake." 

Studying earthquakes are shaped into the curriculum so that students understand the dangers and what to do. 

"They have learned about fault lines, our geography,  what causes earthquakes,  the science behind earthquakes, and there's a whole unit leading up to today actually," said Sveemagann.

Lo says the lessons he has learned with this drill has helped him and his family develop a plan in case of an emergency.  

"If an earthquake ever happens we need to find shelter and we have to have a place to meet up to see if anybody was left inside or if we can go find them," he said.

That's the message the school hopes adults can take away from this drill.

"As adults we sometimes forget about preparing our houses in case of an emergency," says Sveemagann.  "I think a good message to take away is to be prepared, to plan ahead, and to have maybe 48-72 hours of supplies in case something does happen like an earthquake."


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