La Plata, MD- Southern Maryland is no stranger to earthquakes. A 5.8 magnitude quake in Virginia on Aug. 23, 2011, was felt in Maryland. And while most Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) students might not remember it, or were even born yet, those who attend General Smallwood Middle School and Gale-Bailey Elementary School know what to do if another one rocks the area.

“Drop, cover and hold on,” was the direction Oct. 18 at the two schools which took part in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut, an annual drill supported by state and federal emergency management agencies. “The drill gives students another tool to have during emergency situations,” Gale-Bailey Principal Verniece Rory said.

Students in Bailey Roscoe’s second-grade classroom are well-versed in how to stay safe in various situations. “All of my students practice [drills] in case of emergency,” Roscoe said. Recently, the class practiced running to its rally location, said Michael Jones, one of Roscoe’s students. The drill is practiced in the event students and staff have to run from the school due to an emergency and become separated. The rally point is a predetermined spot away from the school where the class can meet back up.  

Schools across the state participate in a number of drills throughout the school year. CCPS holds 11 fire drills each year. Also held annually are four reverse evacuation drills, four lockdown exercises, four shelter-in-place drills and four for severe weather.