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SLPS students use Great ShakeOut to practice earthquake preparedness

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Education secretary Arne Duncan, Gov. Jay Nixon, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano and Congressman Russ Carnahan watch students at Carnahan High School participate in the "Great ShakeOut" earthquake drill.

Students at Carnahan High School of the Future in south St. Louis were front and center today in a national earthquake preparedness drill.

Governor Jay Nixon, Congressman Russ Carnahan, and two members of President Obama's cabinet - education secretary Arne Duncan and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano - watched as the 19 students in Lucy Duffey's class dropped to the ground, covered their heads, and held onto tables in the library.

The students are participants in Project Citizen, which teaches them how to influence public policy. One group chose to focus on making sure the St. Louis Public Schools are prepared for an earthquake, and will ask lawmakers in Jefferson City next week to consider providing funding to retrofit buildings.

Junior Kellie Little says drills like the Great ShakeOut would probably make it easier to get the funding.

"Before the government would fund any projects, the awareness would need to be up and people would need to know about it," Little said. "It would need to be an issue."

Gov. Nixon called emergency  drills "lifesavers." They get people prepared, he said, for things the state hopes will never happen.

"But because of drills like this," Nixon said, "even though we had an EF-4 tornado come through our area, causing devastation all the way across the north part of this region, we had zero death."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working on assessments of the damage, Secretary Napolitano said, and last night's outbreak of deadly tornadoes in the south won't affect Missouri's efforts to receive federal disaster assistance.

"We are working very closely with the state of Missouri to make sure that as damage assessments are done, they move quickly through the federal system and up to the president," Napolitano said. "We've been able to turn these things around fairly quickly once the assessments are complete."


Correction: The first name of the teacher whose class participated in the drill is Lucy, not Jane. Correction added 9:48 a.m. April 29.


Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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