Author: Cassie Gross
On Tuesday and Thursday, September 16 and 18, at 9:21 a.m., I followed my fellow co-teachers and students out to the field for a regular earthquake drill. While in Florida and Massachusetts we have mandatory drills, I never experienced an earthquake drill.
In Florida, we only have fire drills and tornado drills. In a fire drill, each class has a designated location to meet outside of the building and away from the road. The locations are determined based on the closest exit door from the classroom. Students line up and are counted once they are outside to make sure everyone is out of the buildings. In the case of a tornado, students line up in an indoor hallway or take cover under their desks. They sit down on their knees and put their head down while covering their ears and head as best they can. We only practice the drills once a year and we rarely get feedback on how to make the process more efficient.
In Kinmen, I watched as the kids hurried from their room towards open spaces carrying their backpacks over their heads. They lined up on the field, and gave their class role call to the head administrator. Later, I realized how different Taiwanese schools approach their emergency drills. I noticed and liked that the students in Taiwan practice the emergency drill several times and try to improve their performance based on comments from the previous drill.
Coincidentally, I recently visited the 921 Earthquake Museum in Taichung. I was in shock roaming around the collapsed junior high school buildings. As I wandered through the school grounds, I was amazed by the power and severity of the disaster. The track was ripped apart, the buildings collapsed on each other, and the metal framework was bent at horrifying angles. I was on the other side of the world when the earthquake occurred on September 21, 1999, but when I was at the museum I felt like I was living through a small part of the earthquake. The museum provides vivid reminders about the consequences of large magnitude earthquakes and insightfully urges visitors to be more knowledgeable about evacuation and protection techniques.
After returning to Kinmen, I couldn't help picturing the effects a terrible earthquake could have at my own school. I now appreciate the precautions Taiwan has taken to protect students in case of an earthquake. When the schools practice their earthquake drills at exactly 9:21 am, the earthquake warning system goes off not only to remind us of an earlier disaster, but also to call us to preventative action against future disasters.