OGDEN — As the sound of tremors spread across MarLon Hills Elementary School around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, students in Felicia Bedwell’s fourth-grade class ducked under their desks and held on.
After a minute, Bedwell ushered her students into the hallway as other classrooms emptied out. When they heard another rumbling sound, the children crouched against the wall.
After a few more tremor sounds and more crouching, all of the children in the school lined up in a designated area outside to be counted.
The students and faculty at MarLon Hills Elementary, 4400 Madison Ave., had joined other schools, businesses and government agencies across the state to participate in a large-scale earthquake drill called the Great Utah ShakeOut.
“This was a big one, so we did more preparation for this one,” Bedwell said. “In the past, we haven’t really practiced the whole thing.”
The event simulated the results of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that collapsed 10,000 buildings, damaged an additional 285,000, killed 2,300 people and injured 30,000 more.
The scenario also took into account about 350,000 people displaced from their homes and $35 billion in damage.
Utah Division of Emergency Management Public Information Officer Joe Dougherty said similar drills have been done in California in the past few years, but for its first attempt, Utah got more than 900,000 people to participate.
“We’re lucky that we live in a state where people care about preparedness,” Dougherty said.
The ShakeOut, coordinated by Be Ready Utah and various agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security, Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Utah Seismic Safety Commission — is the first statewide earthquake drill.
While most schools only held their 10:15 a.m. drill, Dougherty’s agency is holding a two-and-a-half-day crisis drill.
The goal for ShakeOut organizers — when the rumbling noises came out from the school’s public address system — was to have each student drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a desk or table and hold on to it until the shaking stopped.
“Statistically you are much safer to be under something sturdy than doing anything else,” Dougherty said.
Others, such as law enforcement and search and rescue, worked on how they would attend to the public in the event of a real earthquake.
As the students exited the building, volunteering parents held orange signs with hand-painted lettering to mark sinkholes, fallen trees and power lines.
Back in Bedwell’s class, Johnny Cammack, 10, stayed behind to simulate a trapped or injured student.
He said he was not afraid to be waiting under his desk alone in the dark, but he said it might be different if it were an actual earthquake and not a drill.
“If it was real, it would be kind of scary to be trapped inside,” Johnny said.
The students had a week to prepare.
To encourage discussions with their parents, MarLon Hills Elementary sent packets home with each student, explaining the drill and emergency preparedness.
The students brought back signed slips of paper to enter into a raffle in each classroom to verify if the family has a home-evacuation plan, 72-hour kit, emergency car kit and a natural disaster/crisis information form.
Dougherty said the state plans to continue holding the Great Utah ShakeOut drill every year.
Not only does it get people thinking about earthquakes, but it helps people know what they still need to do to prepare for a disaster.
“It’s OK if you are lacking something right now. This is the time to go through and fix that,” Dougherty said. “It’s a time to test and a time to improve.”
Bedwell said drills remind the teachers to check their classroom emergency-preparedness kits, keeping supplies and lists of student’s names and contact information up to date.
It also serves as a teaching tool. Teachers can talk about overall preparedness with their students as well as the science behind an earthquake.
“It spurs a lot of discussion when we do something schoolwide,” Bedwell said.
The students also take those discussions home and share them with their parents.
For more information, visit www.shakeout.org/utah/.