Great ShakeOut or Great Hangout?

The Great California ShakeOut fell short of being a statewide emergency earthquake drill, and felt more like an elementary school student's dream of not doing anything while class was in session.

Rather than being organized, during what was supposed to be a precautionary drill, students were wandering about the campus clueless as to what the actual purpose of the drill was.

The ShakeOut's official website defines the drill as "an annual opportunity for people in homes, schools, and organizations to practice what to do during earthquakes, and to improve preparedness."

At Santa Monica College, the drill was an opportunity for students to leave class, and dangerously loiter in opportune spots.

"Part of a drill is that you practice, and so with the practices you want to find out where some of the problems are, but also what works really well," said Michael Tuitasi, vice president of student affairs at SMC.

Students were standing under trees, class buildings, parking structures, and anywhere else students should commonly avoid during an earthquake, a time when objects and structures could fall or collapse.

"The main thing is that when you evacuate, people know where to go," said Tuitasi.

Although, once students were evacuated, confusion arose, since they had no clue as to where they had to go, other than to stay away from the buildings.

SMC English professor Eleni Hioureas said that the faculty was provided with an emergency kit and packet at the beginning of the semester.

"Before the drill, I didn't know where I was supposed to take my students in case of an emergency, but because of the drill I looked over the emergency procedures more carefully, and so then now I know where I need to take my students if there is any sort of emergency," Hioureas said.

It is hard to believe that information received during the very beginning of the semester could effectively prepare faculty for an emergency protocol taking place eight weeks later.

Faculty should have been provided with the information much closer to the drill, rather than having to dig within the piles of schoolwork already on their desks.

The slogan for the drill was "Drop, cover and hold on." However, few classrooms took the drill seriously enough to actually practice the proper procedures during a natural disaster.

More than nine million Californians participated in the drill on Thursday. If SMC is any indicator as to what occurred elsewhere in the state, then we are all going to be in trouble when the Big One strikes.

The earthquake drill was meant to be a first step in preparation for a real natural disaster. It is unfathomable to think that the organizers of said drill failed to instruct students on how to relocate themselves to an area where one should actually be during an earthquake.

Instead, students used this time to check their cellphones, chat with friends and eat.

If a real earthquake were to take place, it is highly doubtful students would be able to wander about the campus and socialize.

They would indeed need to protect themselves, but they would be unable to do so if the best precaution the state can come up with, does not even bother to address the safe places students should evacuate to during an earthquake.

If this drill happens once a year, then a portion of the 364 days should be used to prepare the drill, and students and teachers should actually be informed of where to go, and not just where not to go.

SMC's President and Superintendent Chui L. Tsang remained optimistic about the drill's progress.

"This is the first drill we've had campus wise, and we wanted to take advantage to address areas where we need to make improvements," Tsang said. "This will be a learning experience for us.”

A survey will be conducted to provide feedback on the drill, Tuitasi said.

It is safe to say that officials of the ShakeOut need to put this learning experience to use in order to produce a much more effective drill next year.

If an earthquake were to strike during school hours one day, I would like to believe that students would be informed on how to survive, rather than checking their Facebook status while the walls collapse around them.