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Fake Quake rocks Opstad
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."