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Taking cover

If the earth quakes, Derry, Londonderry students will be ready

Union Leader Correspondent

October 17. 2013 8:37PM
Pinkerton Academy junior Steven Hall, foreground, drops, covers and holds under his desk during an earthquake drill Thursday at Pinkerton Academy. The drill was part of an event dubbed the Great Northeast Shakeout. Millions of other people were expected to participate worldwide in Great Shakeout earthquake drills that started at 10:17 a.m. Thursday. (HUNTER McGEE/Union Leader Correspondent)

DERRY — A group of Pinkerton Academy students improvised Thursday to make an earthquake drill seem a little more realistic.

Students in Ed Vaitones' German class decided to download the noise of earthquake sound effects onto a computer and played them at high volume during the drill, known as the Great Northeast ShakeOut.

"You could hear it down the hallway," said Dean of Students Glenn Ahrens.

The drill started at 10:17 a.m., when an announcement was made and the Pinkerton students joined thousands of other people in the region and millions across the globe who participated in the ShakeOut. It was the first time the school has taken part in the event.

"This was pretty new to our staff," Ahrens said. "I'm telling you, going down the hallway, right here in the Shepard building, teachers and kids under the desks, all in a pretzel shape — that was great. They took it seriously."

French teacher Stacey Hourihane said her students were a little surprised by the drill but didn't mind because they were supposed to have a quiz.

"We've done drills for many other things, but this is the first time we've done it for an earthquake," Hourihane said. "I think we are covering all of the precautions to keep the kids safe no matter what happens."

In Londonderry, about 530 students at North School participated in the drill.

Principal Mary Coltin said she learned of the ShakeOut earlier this month and jumped at the opportunity for the school to take part.

"It's just a great teaching opportunity," she said. "Just a quick and simple drill, but it's a lesson that will hopefully stay with them."

In the event of an earthquake, students and staff are generally advised to drop, take cover under a sturdy desk or table if there are any nearby, and hold on to that sheltering object until the shaking subsides.

Second-graders in teacher Connie Murabito's class were visiting the North School library at the time of the drill.

Murabito said she'd already practiced the drill with her students in the classroom setting but had to give them a brief refresher on what to do inside the library, where students typically sit on the floor instead of at desks.

Gathering the students around her in a semi-circle, library media specialist Marie Parker guided them through the process as Coltin announced the drill over the intercom.

"We don't have much to hold onto except for each other," Parker told the children

The drill was held on Oct. 17 to mark the date of a powerful earthquake that shook the San Francisco Bay area in 1989. The earthquake, which interrupted the World Series and measured 6.9 on the Richter Scale, is known as the Loma Prieta Earthquake, said Margaret Boettcher, a geophysics professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Such powerful earthquakes are rare but have occurred in the region. The last major earthquake took place near Quebec in 1663, she said.

Boettcher is familiar with the drill and said it is necessary, even though the region doesn't have nearly as many powerful earthquakes as California.

"It's important to be prepared," she said. "We have magnitude 2 earthquakes every month."

Earthquakes can cause more damage in the region compared to California because of the structure of the underlying rocks, she said.

"Our rocks are a lot stronger, so earthquakes can be felt a lot farther off, " she said. "So, even though it's small, an earthquake has a lot more potential for damage."

Correspondent April Guilmet contributed to this report.

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