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Quake drill a first for new library

Posted: October 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 19, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Library patrons gather near the northern entrance of the Newhall Public Library after it was evacuated during the Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill on Thursday morning. (Dan Watson/The Signal)

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Surrounded by shelves of colorful pictures and pages, a pair of small pink tennis shoes with black laces peeped from beneath a table. Two small hands held onto the table legs.

It was Great American ShakeOut day at the Newhall Library, and 10-year-old Lara Aguayo crouched across from her mother, their faces nearly touching, as they practiced earthquake safety with other library patrons Thursday.

The local, state and national official earthquake drill was supposed to occur at 10:18 a.m. sharp, but at the Newhall Library it was delayed until 10:35 a.m.

That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of participants.

“Look how I’m doing it,” Wendy Aguayo said to her daughter, raising her hands above her head as they ducked. “You want to cover the neck.”

The seventh annual ShakeOut gathered 9.3 million registered participants in California and nearly 3 million in Los Angeles County.

“On this day, we wanted to make sure that we participated as well,” said Jessica Sutorus, library services coordinator. “Public safety is very important to us.”

“This is our first actual emergency drill,” Sutorus said. “We want to train staff to deal with people in an emergency and help them exit the building.”

To prepare for the ShakeOut, the staff was trained to use exit routes and maps, fire extinguishers and evacuation chairs for the stairwells, said Shannon Vonneguet, digital services librarian.

The library, open just 18 days on Thursday, is still building on its stash of disaster supplies, including first aid kits and flashlights, Vonneguet said.

In addition to its staff, the new building is well-prepared for disaster.

“Building codes now, in the state of California, are more stringent than before,” Sutorus said. “There is a lot of extra hardware. (The beams) are reinforced for earthquake safety.”

Inside the building, a stream of nearly 100 parents, children and patrons emerged from their hiding spots, and staff guided them outside the building for a full evacuation.

Parents were glad for the chance to teach their children safety strategies.

“They don’t even know what to do in an earthquake,” Valencia resident Shay Duarte said of her two daughters.

“All I know is you have to duck and cover,” 7-year-old Malia Duarte said, grasping the core lesson of the ShakeOut drill.

Even 2-year-old Jackson Vedomske participated, wearing a white T-shirt covered with castles and knights.

“We liked the drill. We didn’t even know what was happening,” Fred Herrera, Vedomske’s grandfather, said.

Carrying his book on heroes and Hercules like a prized blanket throughout the evacuation, Jackson managed the drill just fine.

Kids re-entered the library, wearing blue ShakeOut stickers posted on their chests, to collect their earthquake preparedness coloring sheets or check out an item from the safety book display.

“We hope to do more next year and expand the Great California ShakeOut every year,” Sutorus said.

She plans to add a geologist presentation and free milkshakes to the lineup of preparedness activities, possibly expanding the program to all three Santa Clarita libraries next year, Sutorus said.

The library ShakeOut provides a venue for residents and families who might not otherwise participate in the drill.

“They are home-schooled. They don’t have to go to public school, so it’s good for them to learn it here,” Wendy Aguayo said of some of the children joining in.

“It was pretty neat to see everyone just drop,” she said, quickly lowering her hands.

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