Fake Quake rocks Opstad

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NORTH BEND — On Nov. 2 at 1:25 p.m., a mock earthquake

hit Opstad Elementary School. Within minutes, students were ushered out

of the building while search and rescue teams combed the "rubble" for

trapped or injured people.

The exercise was part of Opstad's yearly earthquake drill —

complete with wounded students and public safety officials to critique the effort.

"It makes us think, `if this is real, what would we do?'" said

Principal John Jester.

The drill also gave students the chance to practice their escape

routes and reminded them that an earthquake can cause serious damage.

"People were laughing and acting as if it wasn't a big deal. But if it

really happened, it would be a big deal," said fifth-grader Ileaha Lewis.

"When I went outside, we saw friends coming out on a stretcher and it was

scary because it might happen."

As soon as the simulated quake hit, staff members slipped into their

pre-determined roles. Some were on the search and rescue team, while

others were in charge of keeping the students entertained. There were also some

that were trained for the first aid unit, treating the nearly two dozen students

who received lacerations, burns or broken limbs from the quake.

"Every kid needed some sort of treatment so it was good having

to practice on them," said teacher Danielle McIntosh. "We did a lot

of `what ifs.'"

To combat many of the "what ifs," the Opstad PTA donated $9,000

for emergency equipment. Now the school is stocked with first aid

paraphernalia, walkie-talkies, search and rescue gear and more.

"I have great praise for the whole team and great thanks to the PTA

for supporting this," Jester said.

As a result of the drill, however, the staff realized there were still

things they needed for their emergency tool kits. Some items on their wish list

include body boards, warm clothes and blankets, shovels, rain gear, and

food and water.

Sgt. Grant Stewart of the King County Sheriff's Office witnessed

the exercise and said the drill was very organized and well planned. He

was concerned, however, about teachers going into the damaged buildings

to search for people.

"We don't want people who aren't prepared going into a situation

and then we have to rescue the rescuers," Stewart said.

Instead, he said there might be specialized training that the

school's search and rescue team can participate in through the Sheriff's Office.

But overall, Stewart said he would give the staff at Opstad Elementary an "A"

for their earthquake drill.

"It's fantastic that they've gone through all the work to put this

together," he said. "It's very impressive."

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