Friday, October 16, 2009

An Earthquake Would Be Horrifying for a Prairie Dog

It seems that yesterday was the general test day for college/university text alert systems. Seeing as I never bothered to unsubscribe from the SU alerts, I got something along these lines yesterday morning:

“This is a test of the SU text alert system”

Then, not long after that, I received my test text alert from the grad school. It had a slightly different tone:

“Test only. An 8.3 earthquake struck the LA area. Drop, cover, and hold on. Hold 60 seconds then move. Test only.”

Because I know the first thing I’m going to do if an 8.3 earthquake strikes the LA area is to check my text messages.

But I understand what they were trying to do – yesterday, somewhere in the vicinity of 6.9 million people participated in The Great California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill aimed at teaching people about earthquake preparation and proper reaction. I didn’t participate, but I did poke around their website enough to discover that everything I thought you were supposed to do if an earthquake strikes is wrong. Good to know.

Apparently the whole doorframe theory is based on an old picture taken after an earthquake many years ago – the house was destroyed and all that was left standing was a lone doorframe. Older architecture may have been different, but modern architecture does not guarantee that doorframes will be the strongest points in a house.

Today, the earthquake response of choice is to “drop, cover, and hold on.” Get under a sturdy table, desk, etc. (preferably away from exterior walls, bookshelves, and anything else that could fall on you), cover your head and neck, and hang on for dear life.

I wonder if it’s been proven that people in high-stress situations are better able to remember what to do if the proper safety procedure has been formatted as rhythmic three-part instructions? It certainly makes sense. I would advise that you don’t get “drop, cover, and hold” mixed up with “stop, drop, and roll.” That could be bad.

On to non-earthquake-related stories. I have some great news! I received a package in the mail yesterday with a wonderful surprise. Thanks to Mimi, I am now the proud adoptive parent of a prairie dog at the Maryland Zoo! She sent a picture of the actual prairie dog, as well as a representative to keep me company on the other side of the country. His name is José and I love him.

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