By Alex Lippa
---- — LONDONDERRY — At 10:17 a.m. yesterday, everyone at North Elementary stopped whatever they were doing and got down to the ground.
There wasn’t any danger at the school, but the students were practicing what to do in case of an earthquake.
North Elementary was one of many schools around the world which participated in the Great Northeast Shakeout. Students and staff were asked to “Drop, Cover, and Hold” as the school simulated an earthquake, complete with sound effects, yesterday morning.
“Teachers practiced with the kids (Wednesday) so they knew exactly what to do,” North Elementary principal Mary Coltin said. “Kids have been told that wherever they are, whether it’s in the hallway or the classroom, to duck and cover.”
The drill took place in schools across the country on the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake which killed 63 people in northern California.
Coltin said doing the drill yesterday was timely after a 2.5 magnitude earthquake in Contoocook last week.
“It shows it could happen anywhere,” she said.
New Hampshire ranks as the most seismically active state in New England, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It’s something we should prepare for,” said Margaret Boettcher, a geophysics professor at the University of New Hampshire. “The earthquakes may not be as strong as they are in California, but a small earthquake can do more damage here on the East Coast.”
Boettcher said most buildings in New Hampshire are not equipped to handle a major earthquake.
“All the brick in our buildings are dangerous,” she said. “Our buildings aren’t designed with earthquake codes in mind.”
In Toni Carballeira’s fifth grade class, a math lesson was interrupted when the sound of an earthquake was heard over the loudspeaker.
“It startled me,” said Myah Teague, 10. “Anything like this kind of scares me because it shows what could happen.”
Jeremy Helman, 11, said he was glad the school conducted the drill.
“If we didn’t know what to do and there was a real earthquake, then a lot of students and teachers could get injured,” he said. “It’s a great idea to prepare us for if the real thing was to happen.”
But for Elisa DiStefano, 10, holding her head in her arms while crouched under her desk wasn’t the most comfortable thing.
“It wasn’t very roomy under there,” Elisa said. “My arm was getting sore.”
But there was one part of the drill stood out to Cali Stewart, 10.
“I liked seeing the teachers crawl under the desk,” Cali said.
This is not the first drill students have done at North Elementary. The students also participate in lockdown and routine fire drills during the course of the year.
“We just want to make sure our students are safe,” Stewart said.
Schools in Plaistow, Derry, Kingston, Newton and Pelham also were registered for the Shakeout yesterday.