UTHSC Joins Largest Earthquake Drill in Central U.S. on April 28

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On Thursday, April 28, more than one million participants in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut will practice exactly what to do when they participate in the largest earthquake drill in the Central United States.

What would you do if an earthquake struck Memphis? Too many people stare dumbfounded at that question. Do you run outside? Jump in your car and head for home? Freeze in place and hope it will stop? Who knows what’s best? On Thursday, April 28, more than one million participants in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut will practice exactly what to do when they participate in the largest earthquake drill in the Central United States. The more than 5,000 faculty, staff, students and administrators on the Memphis campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will join the one- to two-minute drill, taking time to Drop, Cover and Hold On.

At precisely 10:15 a.m. on the designated day, UTHSC team members will Drop to the ground, take Cover under a sturdy desk or table, and Hold On to it until the shaking stops — in this case until the one-minute drill is completed. Following the drill, participants will assess their surroundings to identify any items that could have fallen and caused injury, such as unsecured bookcases or improperly stored lab chemicals. This information will be used to make the UTHSC campus more earthquake resilient.

As a linked event of the New Madrid Bicentennial and the National Level Exercise 2011, this first ever central U.S. ShakeOut is being organized and coordinated by the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium and its member and associate states, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and dozens of other partners.

Scientists estimate that there is a 25 to 40% probability of a damaging earthquake occurring in the central United States within the next 50 years. The ShakeOut is designed to help individuals and communities in the region get ready for damaging earthquakes, practice how to protect themselves (Drop, Cover, and Hold On), and to prevent disasters from becoming catastrophes.

“Drills are designed to make us think and plan ahead for what we know will eventually happen,” said John Bossier, safety officer for UTHSC. “The ShakeOut will help participants be ready to react to this particular type of emergency.

“Knowing and practicing these three simple steps can prevent serious injury when an earthquake strikes,” Bossier observed. “When you drop to the ground, that prevents you from falling or being thrown to the ground by the violent movement of an earthquake. Taking cover under a heavy table or desk protects you from falling objects loosened by the earthquake’s force. Holding on for the duration of the emergency can help keep you protected from flying debris. The recovery process can begin only after the shaking stops.”

The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut is free and open to the public. All individuals or organizations interested in disaster preparedness are encouraged to participate including schools, businesses, governments and families. States participating in the ShakeOut include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. These are the states most at risk from damaging earthquakes along the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Additionally, the states of Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina are participating in the ShakeOut. These states also have varying degrees of earthquake risk. For more information about the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut visit www.ShakeOut.org/centralus/dropcoverholdon.

As the flagship statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. In 2011, UT Health Science Center celebrates its centennial: 100 years advancing the future of health care. Offering a broad range of postgraduate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The UTHSC campus in Knoxville includes a College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and an Allied Health Sciences unit. In addition, the UTHSC Chattanooga campus includes a College of Medicine and an Allied Health Sciences unit. Since its founding in 1911, UTHSC has educated and trained more than 53,000 health care professionals on campuses and in health care facilities across the state. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.