The "Big One" finally hit Hesperia. Buildings collapsed. Electrical lines fell down. Gas and water mains ruptured. And people were injured.


Now what


Last Thursday, several Hesperia schools, the city and other agencies participated in the Great Southern California ShakeOut, the biggest earthquake drill in history. After being hit by a theoretical 7.8 earthquake, the participants found out what it would be like.


"It's a full-scale drill," said Hesperia High School vice-principal Jeff Hallet as the event got underway.


There, students were told to leave their classrooms and carefully make their way to the school's open-air sports fields.


"We're fortunate to have one-story buildings," said Principal Bob Schnebeck.


Still, according to the mock drill, some students are injured, others are possibly killed. Schnebeck, who grew up in Montebello before his family moved to the Palmdale area, knows that earthquakes can cause real disaster. He clearly remembers the Sylmar Earthquake of 1971, which claimed 65lives, destroyed two hospitals and downed two freeway interchanges. About 40,000 people were evacuated.


With more than 20,000 students, the school district would face the largest challenge of any city agency. According to the ShakeOut scenario, the I-15 freeway through the Cajon Pass would be severed.


According to Richard Okeson, an HUSD Police Department service specialist who serves as the district's disaster preparedness coordinator, that's just the start of the problems. Communication as we know it would be unavailable because cell phone towers and conventional phone lines would be down. Numerous parents who work outside of the Victor Valley couldn't contact their children.


"A big majority of our parents work down in San Bernardino or Orange County," he said.


So numerous key personnel throughout the school district have been issued handheld radios for communication through the district.


Although local schools have one-story buildings, there are other dangers. Book shelves will fall, glass windows may break.


"That's where the injuries are going to come from," Okeson said.


In the event of a real 8.0 quake, Okeson's Emergency Operations Center will be at his Third Avenue offices. On Thursday, he kept track of the theoretical injuries, rooms collapsed and needs.


"If it goes into a second or third day they'll need water and blankets. We're going to keep these kids for a minimum of three days."


While the event was real in theory only, participants were aware that anything could occur.


"You hope something like the Big One doesn't happen, but it's a matter of time, I suppose," Schnebeck said.