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Join in B.C.’s largest earthquake drill this morning

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Iris Parrish knows what it’s like to be in a major earthquake and the importance of being prepared.

Parrish was just 10 years old and living in Vancouver when the largest earthquake in Vancouver Island’s history erupted.

Parrish was enjoying a lazy Sunday morning in bed when the earthquake occurred at 10:13 a.m. on June 23, 1946.

The epicentre of the 7.3 quake was in the Forbidden Plateau area near Courtenay but was felt as far away as Prince Rupert and Portland, Oregon.

Parrish recalls being terrified as she stood outside and felt the ground rolling beneath her feet.

“Fortunately my grandparents’ house was built of wood and very sturdy. I just remember my grandpa yelling at everyone to get out of the house and we stood out in the backyard. It was hard to stand because the ground was still moving and my grandpa stayed in the house to hold on to the hot water tank,” said Parrish.

Fortunately, her grandparents’ house – where she lived in a basement suite with her family – suffered no damage inside or outside.

Parrish recalls being taught in school to hide under her desk in the event of an airplane attack, but never learned earthquake safety.

She said she doesn’t remember adults or her teachers ever talking about it because they didn’t want to scare the children.

Sixty years later, that’s changed and most students routinely practice earthquake drills at school.

Today, a province-wide drill, the first Great British Columbia ShakeOut, takes place to remind everyone that we live in a seismically active area and to be prepared for an earthquake at any given time.

At 10 a.m. everyone is encouraged to participate wherever you are by dropping to the ground, taking cover under a desk or chair and holding on to it for at least 60 seconds as if a major quake were happening.

Check around you for hazards and then practice what you would do after the shaking stops, such as reporting to a pre-determined meeting place.

“People don’t understand we are on the West Coast, in an earthquake environment. We’re trying to attract attention to that with this drill,” said Howie Siemens, emergency program co-ordinator for the Strathcona Regional District and the City of Campbell River.

Siemens said the idea was taken from a model already in place in California for the past three years.

Today’s date was chosen as it marks the 311th anniversary of the great 9.0 Cascadia earthquake that rocked mid-Vancouver Island to as far as northern California and triggered a huge tsunami that swept across the Pacific.

The Great ShakeOut is the largest earthquake drill ever in B.C.

There will not be any power outages or any other simulated effects of a hypothetical earthquake.

All businesses, organizations and schools are encourged to participate by practicing drop, cover and hold on.

The main goal of ShakeOut BC is to get British Columbians prepared for major earthquakes so use the ShakeOut BC drill as an opportunity to learn what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

The Great ShakeOut BC website provides these tips for what to do if you ever find yourself in an earthquake:

Drop to the ground (before the earthquake drops you!).

Take cover by getting under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it until the shaking stops.

If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner.

It also warns against the following:

Do not get in a doorway.

In modern houses and buildings, doorways are no safer, and they do not protect you from flying or falling objects.

Do not run outside. Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous, as the ground is moving, and you can easily fall or be injured by debris or glass.

Do not believe the so-called “triangle of life.” In recent years, an e-mail has circulated which has recommended potentially life threatening actions, and the source has been discredited by experts, says the website.

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