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Lodi students practice safety in earthquake drills

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:04 am, Fri Oct 19, 2012.

Amy Borland's class of second-graders had planned for a normal morning. Just after 10 a.m., the 7- and 8-year-olds sat at their desks at Larson Elementary School, learning about cause and effect from a short story. Borland led the class through the exercise from the front of the room.

"So Tomas goes to the library," she said.

That's when it happened. Three shrill chimes were broadcast on the school intercom, along with a secretary's voice instructing students to drop, cover and hold on.

The children immediately dove under their desks. Some collided with furniture or one another on the way down. Heads were covered and desk legs were gripped with both hands. Borland and two classroom aides took shelter under tables.

All was calm for a moment. Then the giggles started.

Larson students were among the 9.3 million Californians who participated in the Great ShakeOut, a nationwide earthquake drill. Schools, offices and government agencies all practiced together.

The drill is designed to educate the public on how to protect themselves during an intense earthquake. More than 13 million people registered online to stop, drop and cover at 10:18 a.m. on Thursday.

This is the fourth year California has participated in the Great ShakeOut. Students in the Lodi Unified School District practice earthquake drills once each semester, and run through fire drills once every quarter, confirmed Borland.

The second graders stayed under their desks for about two minutes, waiting for the next signal. When two long tones sounded, Borland led her class outside and onto the lawn.

Each class stood in a long line on the damp grass, squinting in the sunlight and waiting for Principal Brandon Krueger to give the all clear.

Sophia Parises and Matthew Gobel said they weren't scared at all.

"It's just practice," said Parises. "But it hurts your neck (being under the desk). It's not very fun."

The drill was done and over with in less than 20 minutes. But the safety skills are ingrained in the children, who say they're ready for the big one.

"Do you know what to do if that was real?" asked Borland. "Give me a signal."

Every student showed their teacher a thumbs up.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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