There were shouts of delight and screams of surprise as the room shook and objects rattled off shelves, but the message for the elementary school students was serious: we must be prepared for earthquakes in Nevada. Students at Roy Gomm Elementary School got to feel what it's like to be in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in a controlled environment - an earthquake simulation trailer used to train emergency responders and others how to react in an earthquake.
"Though it has been 60 years since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Nevada, we can expect three every century," Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno said. "An earthquake of this size will have major impact on the safety of people and buildings. We are passionate about educating the public on earthquake hazards and preparedness. The Big Shaker is an excellent and fun opportunity to help to educate us all on earthquake preparedness."
The Big Shaker, a hydraulically operated earthquake simulator that provides motion comparable to what we can experience in northern Nevada, gave students and teachers first-hand experience on what a large earthquake will feel like, how quickly it will strike and how to prepare for it.
The interior of the trailer has a couch, shelves, small desk, TV monitor, teddy bears, books and other items on shelves. It is fully automated and programmable with up to four different quake scenarios stored in memory. The trailer bucked and rocked, with the tires leaving the ground on some of the bigger shakes.
"Students and teachers got a fun and educational ride in the Big Shaker," Annie Kell, education and outreach coordinator for the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, said. "It really helps people realize the dangers of earthquakes and the need to prepare to lessen damage and injury. We got a lot of students who wanted to ride it a second time, and teachers and administrators even participated."
The Big Shaker will be in front of the University's Joe Crowley Student Union Tuesday at 10 a.m. and available for students, teachers and the public to experience an "earthquake." On Wednesday the Big Shaker will be set up for students and teachers at Incline Middle School.
Nevada is the nation's third most seismically active state. The Nevada-Eastern California region has a history of large, damaging earthquakes and citizens should always consider earthquake preparedness. Information is available at the Great Nevada Shakeout website, www.shakeout.org/nevada.
The Nevada Seismological Laboratory, a public service department in the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno, is a member of the USGS Advanced National Seismic System (http://www.usgs.gov/) and operates a network of about 150 real-time seismograph stations throughout the region providing earthquake information to Nevada citizens, the USGS, and local and state officials.