September 21st is National Earthquake Drill Day in Taiwan. There was a large earthquake in 1999, known as 921 day which killed over 2400 people, injured 11,000, and destroyed over 100,000 buildings, so they have an annual earthquake drill day. Taiwan has an active fault line and experiences earthquakes regularly (none, that we have felt yet, but we have been told it will happen). Growing up in the PNW we had regular earthquake drills in school, but not very many earthquakes. Experiencing my first two earthquake drills here in Taiwan there are some interesting differences.
Students still cover their heads and get under their desks, but the drill announcement has sound effects! Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a good video of it. As the drill began, students are hurriedly running around the classroom to turn off the lights and open the doors of the classroom. Apparently, students are told to turn off the electricity to avoid any possible fire and open doors to keep an escape route available if the building starts to collapse. When it is time to evacuate students are told to carry a book or something hard over their head to protect it from any falling debris.
I find some of this so funny. Why does a student need to sacrifice themselves to turn off the lights, when the building is made of concrete? It is interesting to watch. Then, they all file out carrying books over their heads. Once outside there are two different meeting places where I need to report my attendance to school administrators. Administrators have bright yellow construction style vests and hard hats to match. I was feeling a little left out that I only had a textbook and not a neon yellow accessory.
Another interesting feature of this drill is the life jacket orange pillows that are covering the heads of the elementary students. I am not quite sure what those are, but they are, but it makes me think we are on a boat. Not to mention, the bullhorn directions being rambled off in Mandarin with a live demonstration of how to properly duck and cover under the desk, desk and volunteer student included. Despite the differences, it is good to know that we are prepared 😁
Random Side Note: In the US, student fundraisers are car washes and cookie dough, in Taiwan they sell hot fried chicken (so not kidding)!