A large - albeit simulated - earthquake shook downtown Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Thursday morning during the Great ShakeOut, a province-wide emergency preparedness exercise.
Patrons and staff at the Greg Moore Leisure Centre in Maple Ridge evacuated the building. Those in the pool, including little ones, exited the water and stood on the deck.
Staff at both the Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment and Maple Ridge Municipal Hall evacuated and gathered at Civic Square, near the bus loop, the emergency meeting area outside Haney Place Mall.
In Pitt Meadows, staff and the mayor were under their tables as the minute-long earthquake simulation took place at City hall.
After the earthquake was over, City hall was evacuated with the two safety wardens securing the building. Rollcall was taken outside, and it was discovered one staff member was missing.
After a thorough search of City hall, the staff member was found in a (simulated) medical condition in the handicap bathroom.
Across the province, thousands of people were taking part at exactly 10: 18 a.m. in the simulated earthquake hit.
Canada's largest "fake quake" drill involved an estimated 600,000 people. ShakeOut BC gave participants an opportunity to practise the drill of "drop, cover and hold on," a critical first step for British Columbians and their families.
At the sound of marshals' whistles, Maple Ridge civic staff quickly found cover under their desks before exiting the building.
Ceri Marlo was among those staff members. The District's manager of legislative services, who oversees its emergency management program, said preparation and knowledge will keep you safe in the event of an actual natural catastrophe.
While your first instinct may be to run outside of a building, it's important to remain calm and follow the "drop, cover, and hold on" rule.
"It's extremely important to stay safe if you know this simple drill," Marlo said, adding, "It may be safer inside than outside in some instances. You may have to evacuate if the building is compromised, such as an obvious gas smell or a fire."
Marlo said an estimated 300 to 400 District staff took part in the drill including staff at Maple Ridge's municipal hall, operations centre, fire halls, and RCMP detachment.
She said district employees did a great job of following the "drop, cover, and hold on" procedure of an earthquake drill.
"This is the third time we have participated in the drill and as with anything, practice makes you more comfortable performing a task," Marlo said.
"In the event of something as catastrophic as an earthquake this community is going to be counting on us to lead them through response and recovery," Marlo added. "We need to be sure that our employees are personally prepared at work and at home to enable us to be up and running as quickly as possible. The ShakeOut drill provides us with the opportunity to have those discussions with our staff."
Brad Perrie, assistant fire chief for Pitt Meadows and part of the emergency coordination team for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, was in charge of the Great Shakeout at City hall.
The earthquake drill is good practice in case a real earthquake should strike, Perrie said. He added it also lets staff members assess the safety conditions around their work stations, for example, if there are unsecured pictures or bookshelves.
"A lot of people get injured in an earthquake from falling debris, hence drop, cover, and hold on," Perrie said.
Perrie pointed out that the province is in an earthquake zone and could be hit at any time.
"The potential for a large earthquake to [hit] is realistic - it's there," he said.
* For tips on how to prepare for an earthquake, go to www.mrtimes.com