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ShakeOut- One Certainty in An Uncertain Year

December 4, 2020

Looking back on the year of the pandemic and its resulting uncertainty and chaos, one important public event not only stood up to Covid-19 but succeeded in bringing millions of Californians together for a few moments of purpose and solidarity.

Despite being in the throes of a deadly pandemic, the 2020 version of the Great California ShakeOut and the more than 6.5 million people who practiced how to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” proved that when it comes to the importance of earthquake preparedness, the show must go on.

One thing entirely unaffected by the pandemic is the likelihood of a major earthquake striking the Golden State. So, one could argue that it was more important than ever that this year’s ShakeOut occur. As we do every year, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) proudly supported and participated in what has become one of the world’s largest earthquake safety training exercises.

A major concession this year was the virtual staging of ShakeOut and millions of Californians registered for the October 15 event. In fact, ShakeOut lent itself perfectly to this year’s new normal of virtual reality because you can “Drop, Cover and Hold On” wherever and whenever you want. Practicing this safety drill is vital. And the more we practice these safety measures, the more natural they become to perform when the earth starts to shake.

CEA hosted its own virtual ShakeOut sessions and joined with various partners, including the Earthquake Country Alliance (ECA); U.S. Representative Norma Torres, who represents the Inland Empire in Southern California and CEA Governing Board Member and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, in various virtual events to get the word out about protecting your home and family during an earthquake.

Since 2009, International ShakeOut Day has been held every third Thursday of October. On this day, millions of people gather to practice what to do when an earthquake occurs. This year, following social distancing recommendations, ECA held three different drills via Facebook Live to accommodate the various time zones.

Time to Shakeout 2020
ECA’s Jason Ballmann giving instructions on how to perform the ShakeOut earthquake drill during the Facebook Live event on October 15.

Worldwide, more than 28 million people registered to participate in various ShakeOut drills with more than 20 percent of the participants in California.

Shakeout 2020 Zoom
CEA’s employees practicing how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On during the All-Staff video call on October 9.

For CEA, preparing for and promoting ShakeOut is a yearlong effort. For many weeks leading up to the actual event, we ran radio campaigns and posted about it on our social media platforms. We also handled multiple Television and Radio media inquiries, in English and Spanish, to promote the drill statewide. We also hosted two exercises for CEA staff. On Oct. 9, during our weekly All-Staff video call, we used thematic backdrops to perform the earthquake drill from our homes.

At precisely 10:15 A.M, October 15, all CEA employees received a text alert on our cellphones prompting us to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” Each time, we treated it as a real earthquake alert and performed the drill along with our family members and pets. Our selfies and videos were posted on social media.

Shakeout 2020 Norma Torres
U.S. Representative Norma Torres welcoming speakers and participants to her earthquake preparedness Zoom webinar on October 13.

In October, several organizations hosted earthquake safety events, including U.S. Representative Torres. Her Zoom webinar “Business Earthquake Preparedness Webinar” was a big hit. CEA Chief Mitigation Officer Janiele Maffei conducted several media interviews during ShakeOut week and emphasized the importance of strengthening older houses. She said that literally millions of homes built in California prior to 1980 may need a seismic retrofit to help reduce earthquake damage.

Shakeout 2020 Seismic Retrofit
CEA’s Janiele Maffei explaining how a seismic retrofit can strengthen a home with living space over a garage, during a Zoom webinar on October 13.

Another ShakeOut highlight was when CEA CEO Glenn Pomeroy joined California State Treasurer Fiona Ma at a press conference in Los Angeles to urge residents and businesses to prepare for the next big one by promoting the ShakeOut drill.

Shakeout 2020 Fiona Ma CEA
California State Treasurer, Fiona Ma, speaking about earthquake preparedness during a press event in Los Angeles on October 14.

With his facemask handy, Pomeroy took to the podium to encourage Californians to strengthen their older houses to help minimize loss caused by a damaging earthquake. He explained how simple and cost effective a seismic retrofit can be and the benefits a retrofit provides in strengthening older homes.

Shakeout 2020 Glenn Pomeroy CEA
CEA’s Glenn Pomeroy advising Californians to protect and strengthen their homes against earthquake damage during a press conference in Los Angeles.

Earthquakes do not stop or take a break during a pandemic. So, as we spend even more time in our homes because of Covid-19, it is vitally important that our dwellings are strong enough to help withstand earthquake damage. The ShakeOut earthquake drill is the perfect opportunity to remind everyone of how important it is to be prepared for a seismic event. Knowing how to “Drop, Cover and Hold On” will help protect you during an earthquake, while strengthening your home can also help protect your family and community.

With all that said, as we look back on the year of the pandemic, the 2020 virtual version of ShakeOut will be remembered as one comforting certainty in an uncomfortable, uncertain year.