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Local school districts hold first-ever earthquake drill


By Maria Miller

WINDBER, Pa. -- Thousands of schools across the country, including several in the Johnstown region, took part in a national initiative this morning called the Great Shakeout. It's an earthquake preparedness drill that's now required by the federal government.

What should a person do if there is an earthquake? Well, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, drop, take cover and hold on until the shaking stops. And that's what millions of kids across the country were practicing in school Thursday morning, including students in Windber.

"It's been different than the other drills that we've done," said Lisa James, principal of the public middle and high schools there. "This time, students were told to drop down, cover their heads and hold on, take cover under your desk, do something if they can find a place where there's protection."

Most students are accustomed to the monthly fire drill, the yearly tornado drill and now, unfortunately, active shooter scenarios. But earthquake preparedness isn't something Pennsylvanians typically worried about until a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia in 2011. The effects were felt in Pennsylvania, too.

"I have learned, unfortunately, that we have to be prepared for everything," said James. "And most importantly, we want to keep our kids safe, so it's just another precaution."

And it's not just schools that are taking part in the drill. Emergency management agencies were also standing by to show students the importance of being prepared.

"It will be mass chaos for a while, there's no doubt about that," said Capt. Anson Bloom, of the Windber Fire Department. "You just have to make sure that you follow the plan and everything. This is why we do these drills; to make sure everyone is on the same page."

"The kids know that we're serious, and when we're serious, they tend to take it a little more serious, as well," said James.

For more information on how a family can prepare for an earthquake, visit the link on FEMA's website: www.shakeout.org.

 
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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times

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