Twice a year, students in Albany schools get lessons on how to ride the bus safely, regardless of whether they're regular riders.
The lessons are a good idea, even for students who may ride the bus only as part of a field trip or on a lark with a friend.
But Jim Golden, the superintendent of the Greater Albany Public Schools district, thinks these lessons are important for another reason: In the event of a disaster such as an earthquake that compromises the safety of a school building, the district's plans call for students, teachers and staff members to be evacuated, by bus, to the Linn County Fair and Expo Center. Students would stay there until parents and guardians pick them up.
So, yes, training on how to behave and what to do when you're riding the bus could come in handy under such a circumstance.
These lessons, which were being delivered last week by bus drivers to their young charges, should also trigger a reminder for adults: How's your preparation coming along for a natural disaster such as an earthquake or some other occurrence — say, a freezing snap that closes schools for a week and puts a strain on public services?
That question is particularly timely this month: We're just a week away from the Oct. 19 Great Oregon Shake-Out, the event which encourages participants to drop, cover and hold on at precisely 10:19 a.m. on that Thursday to prepare for an earthquake.
It makes sense to practice the "drop, cover and hold on" maneuver, which experts say is the best way to protect yourself during a strong quake: It requires that you drop in place, onto your hands and knees, cover your neck and head with one arm (if a sturdy desk or table is nearby, crawl underneath it) and hold on until the shaking stops. The maneuver makes more sense than trying to run outside even as the earth underneath your feet is violently shaking, and it turns out that taking refuge beneath a doorway isn't particularly safe.
But as important as that practice will be when a real earthquake hits, the real value of the ShakeOut is that it reminds us to take stock of our own disaster preparations. Experts recommend that you have two weeks' worth of food, water and other supplies on hand; we suspect that a lot of people have made a start at accumulating those supplies, but that the daily duties of our lives have waylaid some of those efforts. This would be an excellent time to revisit your supply stash.
It's also a good time to consider the other parts of your emergency plan: Do your family and friends know how to react if disaster strikes at a time when you're not together? How will you communicate with loved ones after a disaster? (It's likely that cellphone coverage will be knocked out for a length of time after a disaster.) Do you know how to turn off your gas line? Will you be able to reach your preparedness kit?
We understand that it's not a whole lot of fun trying to answer these questions. But you're much better off coming up with answers now than trying to improvise something during the hours after disaster strikes.
You can register to take part in the ShakeOut by signing up at its website; already, more than 500,000 Oregonians have said they'll participate next Thursday morning. After you crawl out from underneath your desk, find your list of steps you told yourself you'd do to prepare for disaster. Go ahead and blow the dust off the list. Then get back to work on it. Even completing a couple of steps on the list will bring you closer to being ready when disaster strikes. (mm)