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101917 Pioneer Valley Shake Out

Pioneer Valley High School sophomores Alyah Sena, left, and Dora Gurrola duck under their desk in Arnold Feher's English class during the Great California ShakeOut on Thursday.

At 10:19 a.m. on Oct. 19, Pioneer Valley High School sophomores Dora Gurrola and Alyah Sena ducked under the desk they share in Arnold Feher's English class.

A voice was speaking over the intercom.

"Please move away from all windows and heavy objects. Go under your desk, and crawl into the 'drop, cover and hold' position. I need all students to pretend we are having an earthquake."

In a matter of seconds, Gurrola and Sena were joined under tables by their classmates and the more than 350,000 Central Coast residents who signed up to participate in the Great California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake and emergency preparedness drill.

Seventy miles east of Santa Maria, the destructive San Andreas Fault crosses a stretch of Highway 166 between Hudson Ranch Road and Soda Lake Road, dwarfing the smaller Santa Maria River fault that passes to the north of the city. A 2016 projection by the Southern California Earthquake Center indicates that if an 8.0 magnitude earthquake initiates 90 miles northeast of Santa Maria in Parkfield, widespread shaking will be felt throughout Southern California for as long as 75 seconds.

"We live [near one of] the greatest fault lines in America," said Assistant Principal for Student Services Greg Dickinson. "While we practice fire, earthquake and evacuation drills a couple times per year, any time we have a statewide focus on the drill we try and take advantage of the opportunity."

In the wake of a damaging earthquake, services like electricity, water and sewer may be disrupted, and access in and out of the region could be limited. Fire and police departments may be unable to respond quickly to issues as they may be responding to more serious situations. Government assistance may be unavailable or insufficient to repair or replace damage to residences and belongings.

While Dickinson said students and staff review update and review emergency procedures annually, people need to be prepared for the aftermath of an earthquake as well.

"We're obviously not just trying to duck, cover and hide. We'll have to deal with the fallout afterward."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.