News: The great shakeout
LATHROP, Calif. - On Oct. 17, a booming voice came over the loudspeaker system and was heard throughout the Defense Contract Management Agency Lathrop office – “This is an exercise. An earthquake has commenced. Drop, cover and hold on!” The great shakeout had begun.
Various conference rooms throughout the facility displayed manikin dummies captured in scenes of what could happen to someone that did not heed the "duck and cover" process in a real scenario.
For me, the office scene brought back memories. Twenty-four years earlier, on Oct. 17, 1989, I was at game three of the infamous “Bay Bridge” baseball World Series with my father. The smell of hot dogs and burgers filled the concourse, and the anticipation was electric. The cross-town rival Oakland A’s had a 2-0 lead, opposing the San Francisco Giants. However this time was different, the Giants were in their home park, Candlestick Park, right off the bay.
We had seats behind the home dugout, and I was filled with excitement. Little did I know the extraordinary events I witnessed that day wouldn’t be on the baseball diamond.
At 5:04 p.m., about a half-hour before game time, a rumble came from the upper deck. My father looked up to the stands, thinking the filing-in crowd had started the wave in excitement for the night’s competitive event. “What are they doing? It’s not even game time,” he thought. When he looked to the stands, he didn’t see a crowd doing the wave, but instead, the stadium lights were shaking 20 feet from side to side – an earthquake.
Once the full magnitude of events sunk in, my father grabbed me (then only 3 years old) and quickly covered me with his protective embrace. A loud roar came from beneath the earth and tremendous shaking commenced for what seemed like an eternity. On my dad’s wrist-watch, 12 seconds passed and it was over. The nationally televised 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake had just taken place.
To this day I still remember those events – they are my earliest childhood memory. Fast forward 24 years and I’m back to almost the same location. My home office, DCMA Lathrop, is only about an hour east of San Francisco.
Now in Air Force blues and teamed with my DCMA brothers and sisters, I experienced this exercise in preparation for events should they happen again.
When the shakeout started, office workers of all ages scurried to find cover and huddled underneath anything they could find. For most it was their office desk. Then, as quickly as it started, the drill was over. This wasn’t your typical earthquake drill, however. Much more was at stake on this day.
“I was at my desk, and all I heard was a loud voice come over the loud speaker spelling out instructions for an earthquake drill,” recounts Steven Cobb, contract administrator. “I quickly got under my desk and braced for the exercised sways.”
Cobb, as well as many of the other office employees, was unaware that more than 24 million participants throughout the world participated in this shakeout drill at the exact time. According to the official shakeout website, more than 9 million in California alone participated in earthquake related activities.