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Introduction to Emergency Preparedness
Learning about Local Hazards


The purpose of these lesson ideas is for students to gain knowledge of what to do when an earthquake occurs in the US.






Main shock







Richter Scale










Lesson Ideas

  1. Introduce topic.  

    1. PowerPoint:  Use a photo from the PowerPoint “Earthquake” or the photo gallery at Seattle Times of the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake

    2. You Tube:  Watch a You Tube video of the inside of a building in China during the May 12, 2008 earthquake.  Notice how everyone runs out of the building except one worker. This might be an appropriate response in China, but not in the US. Buildings tend not to collapse in the US so staying inside and protecting one's head and neck is the thing to do.

    3. Questions to ask students:  What do you see in the photos or video?  What happened?  What do people do in the photo/video?  Has this happened to you?  How did you feel?  Do earthquakes happen in Seattle?  What can you do to be safe?  What should you do in an earthquake?  Teachers can share their experiences too. 

  2. Watch on-line video or DVD from City of Seattle from 01:30 to 05:55 about what to do during an earthquake.  Use Cloze Exercise 3 (answers),  Cloze Exercise 4 (answers), Cloze Exercise 5 (answers), Cloze Exercise 6 (answers) and Comprehension Question Worksheet 3 (answers).

  3. Readings:  What are earthquakes and what to do before, during and after one.

    1. Student experiences for beginning readers (Levels 2 and 3):  John Avery’s students' experiences at Green River Community College after the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.  Use the same questions above and have students write or discuss as a class.  Students can write about their experiences in earthquakes or what they expect it to be like.

    2. Earthquakes in Seattle at the City of Seattle Office of Emergency Management.  Have students answer questions on a worksheet.

    3. Articles: One- page readings on 1906 quake and seismic waves from USGS.

    4. Basic earthquake info: For level 5-6 from USGS.

    5. King County web page on earthquakes:  Have 3 groups of students read 3 different steps—Hazard Specific Steps, Response Steps, and General Preparedness Steps and then the 3 groups report to each other.

  4. Vocabulary:  Click “Children’s Book” for A-Z vocabulary on earthquakes from USGS.

  5. Spelling for beginning levels.

  6. Scrambled Order: What to do before, during and after an earthquake. Cut up words and sentences. Mix them and hand one set to a group of students. Have students put sentences in order.

  7. Writing:  Look at pictures from PowerPoint or the Seattle Times Photo Gallery and have students write about pictures.  Use descriptions or tenses relevant to your class.  What do you see?  What are people doing?  What happened?  What should you do?  What will they do? Etc

  8. Writing 2:  After any local event occurs, whether it’s an earthquake or a windstorm, collect student experiences about the event.

  9. Writing 3: Using the vocabulary, students make sentences.

  10. Interactive on-line quiz:  Test your students’ and your knowledge about what to do in an earthquake.  You could do this once at the beginning of your earthquake studies and once at the end or just at the end.

  11. Read a chart of recent local quakes at Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Click “Latest Quakes” and ask questions.  Click on map to zoom in.  Look at quakes in the world during the last 7 days. Questions to ask could be: What states do you see?  Where is Seattle?  How many earthquakes have there been in the last 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks?  What size or magnitude were they? Point to earthquakes with different colors and ask when they occurred.  Click on one earthquake near Seattle and bring up the report.  Ask what day and time it occurred; the magnitude.  Ask students if they felt any of these quakes.

  12. Read a map of world quakes from USGS. Click on quake for details. Notice the "Ring of Fire." Students can find earthquakes in their country or region if they are from an area with earthquakes.

  13. Practice a drill:  in class, in the hallway and at home.  Where can you drop, cover and hold? What might fall on you? It is especially important to practice in April and September as there are state-wide drills. See the next idea below.

  14. Emergency Preparedness Months: April in Washington and September for the nation. The Washington site has beautiful pictures for low-level students about Drop, Cover, and Hold. They are fliers for the 2008 drill but are excellent if you cut of the dates and just use the pictures. The Washington site has other excellent activities as well.

  15. Scenario 1Camping: In the video, the man asks us to imagine we are going camping for 3 days.  What do we need?

  16. Scenario 2—Prepare for a...(windstorm):  You can change this to “earthquake.”  In the video (13:53), the man asks us to pretend an event will occur in a few days and asks us what we need to do to prepare.  Do this with students.  They can list what they have at home that matches what the video says they need for 3 days.  Then students can go home and make lists:  What I have….What I need.

  17. Scenario 3—After the... (windstorm):  You can change this to “earthquake.”  Students discuss what to do after a disaster.

  18. Scenario 4—What to do in an earthquake:  Students learn what to do at various locations during an earthquake.

  19. What next?  Go to lessons ideas for Building a Supply Kit.