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Earthquake drill sends Mahoning County Commissioners ducking for cover

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A drill in preparedness took place all around Mahoning County.

It was the region's largest-ever earthquake drill.

As several dozen people gathered at the Mahoning County Commissioner's meeting there was an announcement over a loud speaker, "You are joining in the largest earthquake drill in the region's history. We are practicing now so we know how to protect ourselves during a real earthquake. This is an earthquake drill right now, drop, cover and hold-on."

As everyone in the meeting, including Commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Anthony Traficanti and David Ditzler, dropped to the floor, they were reminded that an earthquake can happen anytime, anywhere, and they have happened right here in the Mahoning Valley. In fact, a series of earthquakes rocked the Valley in 2011, including one that reached 4.0 on the Richter scale.

But in this case it was just a drill where a total of nine Mahoning County departments took part, along with a number of school districts in the area.

"When an earthquake goes off, there's no warning that it's going to hit. There's no sirens that go off for that so I would just pull over where you are and assess the situation where you are," said Dennis O'Hara, a Planner with Mahoning County Emergency Management.

The drill that took place at 10:17am was dubbed "The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut."  Ten states participated, and the message "drop, cover and hold on when you realize you're on shaky ground."

"They recommend you get under a table or a sturdy desk, however, you never know where you're going to be so you may just have to protect yourself the best you can. If you can get to an outside wall, you're not really going to have a lot of time to run around, just get down, cover your neck, cover your head," O'Hara said.

Remember, you are safer under a table than bracing yourself against a doorway, and if you're in a vehicle, pull over and avoid overpasses, bridges and power lines.

"It's not just earthquake preparedness. It's just being prepared period. Have a kit, make a plan and be ready. You never know what can happen and when it can happen," O'Hara said.

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