Annual Great California ShakeOut goes virtual

The webinar emphasized the importance of being prepared for various natural emergencies — from the pandemic to earthquakes.

USC hosted an online earthquake preparedness seminar with over 300 attendees on Oct. 15 as part of the annual Great California ShakeOut drill. The seminar, coordinated by the Office of Fire Safety Emergency Planning and the USC staff assembly, focused on special preparedness conditions during the pandemic, as well as how emergencies and disasters can further compound the impacts from COVID-19.

The seminar covered a variety of topics including earthquake hazards, what to do during and after an earthquake and how to be prepared for an emergency. Steven Goldfarb, a fire safety and emergency planning specialist at USC, led the seminar.

“We specifically talked about some of the things to keep in mind when you’re at home under current conditions,” Goldfarb said in an interview with Annenberg Media. “Now that we’re in a pandemic, making sure you have plenty of PPE and understanding that supply chains might be impacted by an earthquake. [They were] already impacted during COVID, so imagine during an earthquake, how bad it could become.”

Goldfarb also discussed how losing power after an earthquake also poses more of a challenge now as people rely on technology to communicate for school and work.

“We could lose the internet for an unknown duration of time, so considering your plans and how you’re going to communicate with your family — knowing that technology may not be available to you right away after an earthquake is vital,” Goldfarb said.

USC has participated in the annual Great California ShakeOut since its inception in 2008. Traditionally, USC faculty conduct “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” drills on campus to demonstrate how to respond during an earthquake. Goldfarb said emergency response teams also typically run through an earthquake training exercise. Last year, emergency responders practiced a disaster medical response plan where they set up medical treatment areas and practiced dealing with an influx of people who may need medical attention.

While Goldfarb would have preferred an on-campus training this year to help commit emergency preparedness exercises to memory, he said that the webinar still provided students and faculty who attended the essential information.

“It’s always nice to do things in person, but...the feedback has been very good,” Goldfarb said. “If it moves people to action, which is the ultimate goal, then we’ve succeeded.”

Roni Yohanan, a sophomore majoring in psychology, grew up in West Los Angeles and spoke about struggling to react safely when experiencing multiple earthquakes.

“You’re in such a state of shock when it first happens that it’s over by the time you realize what it is,” Yohanan said.

Yohanan didn’t attend the webinar but has practiced drills before in elementary and middle school. She still never feels prepared enough once an earthquake happens.

“I think if there were more webinars it could help us be more prepared,” Yohanan said.

Rachel Chioke, a junior majoring in environmental science grew up both in South Central and Santa Clarita and experienced many practice drills in-person. She doesn’t find an online webinar an effective way to prepare, especially after years performing in-person drills.

“I just already know what to do, you can get under your desk and fold yourself in with one hand, grabbing the leg of the desk, and put the other hand on the back of the neck. If it’s not at a desk then you can stand in a doorway,” Chioke said.