Sam van Teijn, public safety officer for Linn-Benton Community College, has had plenty of experience dealing with earthquakes. It's part of the package when you grow up in Japan.

Even there, however, where drills are practiced regularly, a quake can take you by surprise. He remembers walking with a group of fellow schoolchildren when a temblor hit and "knocked us over like bowling pins." 

Still, van Teijn said, the best way to stay safe is to practice safety procedures. And practice. And practice again.

"You develop muscle memory," he said. "It works."

To that end, LBCC was among agencies participating Thursday morning in the Great Oregon ShakeOut, a voluntary statewide earthquake drill. 

Scientists say Oregon is overdue for a massive earthquake expected to strike the Cascadia subduction zone, which runs right off the Oregon coast. The quake could come tomorrow, in 50 years, or even later, but given seismic history, it's a "when" and not an "if."

ShakeOut procedures call for participants to drop in place; cover themselves by crawling under a sturdy desk or table, or with their arms over their heads if no shelter is readily available; and hold on until the shaking stops.

The idea is to make it through the initial temblor, then get outside and as far away as possible from anything that might fall from above or roll into you during an aftershock, such as cars in a parking lot.

At LBCC on Wednesday, office staff in Takena Hall crouched under desks or stood in doorways during the drill — although Lynn Cox, associate dean of student affairs and the Takena Hall building manager, reminded them afterward that doorways are not considered the best option.

"They're not as safe as we used to think," she said. Better: "Getting under the desk." 

Cox said she recognizes not everyone is physically able to crawl under a desk just for practice, so she doesn't require that, even in a drill. But she does encourage people to at least be aware of their surroundings, just in case.

LBCC has a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan that is updated every five years. The most recent, presented Wednesday to the college's Board of Education as a review item, showed earthquakes as the top natural hazard threat to campus. (Winter storms had the highest probability, however.)

The plan calls for doing seismic assessments on various buildings, particularly the Calapooia Center, the Activities Center, the Service Center and Red Cedar Hall, also known as the former Health Occupations building. It also calls for securing hazardous materials on campus, developing a strategy to prioritize any necessary seismic retrofits on various buildings, and prioritizing buildings that have had seismic work for student use.

When a quake hits, however, people will have little time to react. And the sensation a quake produces, especially if someone has never been through one before, is dizzying and disorienting, van Teijn said. 

That makes drills even more important, so people will know instinctively what to do, and even what not to do. 

At LBCC, for instance, the kitchen has a sensor that shuts off the gas if seismic activity is detected. That means no one has to spend time during a quake hunting for a kill switch.

"They didn't know that, unfortunately," van Teijn said of college kitchen staff members he debriefed after Wednesday's drill. "They do now."


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