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State, region drill for possible quake

Numerous schools, hospitals and organizations in northeast Indiana were among the more than 2.8 million people across the Midwest who took part in an earthquake drill Thursday.

The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut drill was conducted to mark the anniversary of the 1812 New Madrid earthquakes. Indiana is one of nine states in the vicinity of the New Madrid fault line.

According to the website of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, an earthquake of similar magnitude and location today would result in 85,000 casualties, 3,500 deaths and leave nearly 2 million people without shelter.

Students and staff at Warsaw Community Schools participated in the drill for the third year, said Greg Schroeder, director of buildings and grounds.

Although Schroeder could not attest that every person in all 12 schools took part in the full “stop, drop, cover and hang on” exercise – participation is optional – he said many cooperated with the effort.

The protocol recommended by the Department of Homeland Security teaches people to drop to the floor, take cover under a table or desk and hold on to the furniture or something heavy.

“The students and teachers crawled under desks or large pieces of furniture, covered their heads and then found something to hang on to,” Schroeder said. He thinks the drills are beneficial.

“You never know, and we are at risk here because of the New Madrid fault,” he said.

Lutheran Hospital, part of the Lutheran Health Network, also took part in the drill.

The hospital’s emergency mass messaging service notified all staff members – on the clock or off – at the same time of the drill, said Timothy Davie, director of the hospital’s Environment of Care Department.

Davie oversees crisis plans and security. He has developed a specific earthquake response plan for departments, staff and patients at the hospital.

Patients did not take part in the drill but were advised by nursing staff of what was going on, Davie said.

He hopes to get feedback from the staff to see whether they would recommend a full-scale drill with patient participation in the future, Davie said.

Staff members were advised to follow the procedure for finding a safe place to drop to the floor and take cover, while at the same time keeping the patients’ safety and protection in mind, Davie said.

“This is not something you want to learn to do in the middle of a real earthquake,” he said.

The staff must know when and how to evacuate patients and take cover in earthquakes and other emergencies, he said.

More than 550,000 Hoosiers took part in the training, including many individual residents.

Lois Hess of Fort Wayne was one of those people.

Hess, who lives in a one-story home, said she has a plan in case of an earthquake.

“I will get under my table and hang on,” said Hess, who has participated in the exercise the last two years.

“And, I know that heavy objects like bookcases should be fastened to the wall so they can’t fall on anyone,” she said.

“The Great ShakeOut in Indiana continues to be a success year after year,” IDHS Executive Director John Hill said. “Over the last three years, we have been able to raise awareness about the threat of earthquakes and promote preparedness to hundreds of thousands of students, businesses and families across the state.”

Indiana partners included local emergency management agencies, the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Geological Survey and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

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