Morongo Conducts Successful Earthquake Evacuation Drill

Tribe, local cities and Riverside County conduct joint training exercise to protect Morongo School students in an emergency.

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – In an effort to be best prepared during a disaster, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians partnered with local emergency agencies to safely evacuate the Morongo Indian Reservation schools during a joint training exercise Friday that simulated a major earthquake.

More than 135 students were evacuated during the emergency drill involving officials and teachers from the Morongo School as well as personnel from the Morongo Fire Department, Tribal Reservation Patrol, Casino Tribal Security, Morongo Transportation Department, Banning Police Department, Beaumont Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Riverside County Office of Emergency Services, Riverside County Fire Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

“Practice makes perfect, and we want to make sure our first responders are trained and ready to work together to protect the community during a crisis,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin. “We want to thank our partner agencies for their time and for working with us to conduct this important exercise to make sure we are ready to assist each other should a disaster strike.”

The drill began about 12:30 PM with a mock report of a major earthquake having damaged the three reservation school campuses. Morongo and county fire engines rolled into action with patrol vehicles as the evacuation order was issued. An emergency alert crackled across the low-band Morongo FM Disaster Radio system used for backup communications on the reservation during disasters.

Teachers and administrators quickly emptied their classrooms and formed the more than 135 students into orderly lines at each campus. Reservation and casino security officers arrived to assist school officials who accounted for each pupil as crews secured the buildings. Tribal school busses rolled up and the students were whisked away to the Morongo Public Works parking lot to meet their parents.

The drill wrapped up at 1:30 PM after which emergency personnel gathered to discuss their observations and assessments of the exercise.

“There’s no such thing as being overly prepared when you’re working to save lives,” said Morongo Disaster Preparedness Manager Floyd Velasquez. “Training exercises like these help ensure that everyone is ready to respond and work in unison during a real-life disaster.”

Morongo Education Administrator Lisa Santos Tabarez said students and teachers performed exceptionally well during the exercise. 

“From fire drills to big evacuation exercises like this, our parents understand and appreciate how these programs help keep their children safe,” Tabarez said.