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Great Arizona ShakeOut 2017 Draws 110,000+ Participants

Yesterday, Thursday 19 Oct., nearly 110,806 Arizonans engaged in the signature action of ShakeOut – Drop, Cover, & Hold On – to prepare for ground shaking that accompanies a moderate to severe earthquake.  

I joined more than 400 Pre-K through 5th grade students at the Blackwater Community School Akimel O'Otham - Pee Posh in ShakeOut. At precisely 10:19 am, Vice-Principal Misty Lopez came over the loudspeaker and alerted each class that it was time to practice ‘Drop, Cover, and Hold On’. An audio played of the creaking and cracking of a building responding to ground shaking, while the kids huddled under their desks for a minute.

(I arrived at the Akimel O'Otham - Pee Posh charter school in time for the flag ceremony, which took place out in the playground and began with all 400+ kids reciting the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, which begins, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident. …’, followed by collective recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Akimel O’otham and then in English.)

Why ShakeOut?  The Western U.S. is prone to moderate to large magnitude earthquakes, capable of severe ground shaking that can collapse buildings, bridges, roads and other infrastructure. Seismologists will tell you, ‘earthquakes don’t kill people, building killing people’.  That includes Arizona. Adding to the confusion and chaos are cascading or secondary events, which frequently accompany earthquakes, such as: broken water and gas mains, disrupted transportation corridors, flooding, fires, landslides, and tsunami or seiche.

Fortunately, large magnitude earthquakes (M7.0+) are infrequent in Arizona. Moderate earthquakes (M4 to M6+), resulting from crustal extension in and adjacent to Arizona’s Basin & Range Province, occur more frequently.

Some recent felt earthquakes in Arizona. Over the past three years, Arizona has experienced a suite of felt earthquakes:  M4.1 (Black Canyon City, 11/2015), M 4.7 (Sedona, 11/2014), a swarm of ~ 60 small magnitude microseisms (M1-M3) in NW Arizona (4/2016), and a M5.3 event (Duncan, Arizona, 6/2014). The Black Canyon City event, felt throughout the Phoenix Metro area, resulted in dozens of media reports. Only the M5.3 Duncan event and the M4.7 Sedona evert resulted in even minor damage; the dozens of felt aftershocks following the Duncan temblor rattled the people of eastern Greenlee County for than a year.  

Large magnitude events are more frequent west of Arizona on California’s San Andreas fault system, which includes the Imperial Fault, a mere 50 miles from Yuma, Arizona. The M7.2 El Mayor - Cucapah earthquake (4 April 2010) rattled southwestern Arizona and produced substantial damage in Mexicali, Mexico. Seismic energy released during earthquakes has no respect for territorial borders, so Arizonans could well be impacted by strong events in California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Mexico.

Who takes part in ShakeOut?

ShakeOut’s largest target audience is K-12 school children and university students. Hence, the timing of the event; always on a Thursday morning in the 3rd week of October. ShakeOut organizers, however, reach beyond schools to include: businesses, local, county, state and federal government, health providers, preparedness organizations, tribal communities, families, and more.

This year’s Arizona shakeout improved greatly on 2016’s enrollment of about 66,000.  

Breaking out the bulk of ShakeOut’s 110,800+ participants

  • Counties w/ more than 1,000 enrolled
    • Yuma – 33,711
    • Maricopa – 32,485
    • Coconino – 29,430
    • Yavapai – 7,965
    • Navajo – 2,940
    • Pima – 1,618
    • Apache – 1002
  • Schools
    • K-12 – 46,204  for an online list of participating schools
    • Universities – 29,430 Northern Arizona University & Glendale Community College
  • Tribal Groups – 1,000 members of the Cocopah Indian Tribe
  • Healthcare – 5,915
  • Preparedness Organizations – 25,000
  • Govt. – local, state & federal – 1,903

In Oct. 2018, we hope to grow the Great Arizona ShakeOut to more than 150,000 participants.

Posted by M. Conway