June 14, 1954 saw the first nation-wide civil defense drill conducted in the United States. The Civil Defense Administration organized and promoted the event, which included operations in 54 cities around the country, including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Alaska, and Hawaii. Canada had also participated in the event. The History Channel website has a nice write-up on the event. The History Channel’s article explains some of the activities conducted during the event, which largely consisted of sheltering drills.
Today we do see some nation-wide exercises which engage citizens through the Shake Out earthquake drills. Their website has a great deal of information on the program, including how you can participate. The statistics on their site are great, showing not only the US regional exercises but also Shake Out exercises conducted in nations around the world (something I was not familiar with until visiting their site this morning). The earthquake hazard in the US and around the globe is significant – in fact we just saw two large earthquakes late yesterday – a 7.9 near Alaska and a 7.2 near New Zealand. While the core activity of the Shake Out exercises is the ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold on’ (similar to the ‘duck and cover’ of the civil defense days), their website also promotes preparedness activities including a ‘hazard hunt’ for items which may fall during an earthquake, a family disaster plan, business and organizational continuity planning, and emergency supply kits. This is the type of preparedness activity we need to continue, but we also need to do more. Unfortunately the message still isn’t getting through to many people.
How do you think we should get the message out?
© 2014 Timothy Riecker