Mobile simulator demonstrates big quakeBy Christine Morente
The jolt was measured at 7.5, and it left the living room something of a mess. Strewed about Pam Riechel's feet were a few glasses, books and papers.
On Thursday, the 58-year-old San Bruno resident was sitting with her husband, Robert, when they were jostled for a few seconds. Fortunately, it wasn't a real earthquake - the couple were inside the Big Shaker, a large mobile simulator designed to re-create varying degrees of quake intensity.
The "epicenter" was outside a Lowe's store.
"That was very realistic," Pam Riechel said, still shaken from the experience. "We thought we were prepared, but we're not. We definitely have to go through our home and make it safer for all of us."
The demonstration that day was primarily for the media, but a small number of residents tried the simulator.
The Big Shaker will come back from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Lowe's in San Bruno. On Sunday, it moves to Lowe's in Union City. There also will be clinics on how to secure homes and participants will be offered a free earthquake kit. Next weekend, the simulator will be at the Cow Palace in Daly City for the San Francisco Home Show.
The Big Shaker was developed last year by a company called QuakeHold! and made its debut in the Bay Area Thursday morning in San Bruno.
The simulator is a 24-foot-long trailer that has a hydraulic system that can jolt and roll to simulate earthquakes of up to 8.0 magnitude, said Dean Reese, QuakeHold! chief executive officer.
"Literally we can get the wheels off the ground," he said. "This trailer gets a workout."
The company is working with The American Red Cross Bay Area to train and educate residents. September is Earthquake Preparedness Month.
Inside the trailer is a living room equipped with a sofa, two lounge chairs and bookcases. The television, VCR and DVD players are strapped down inside a secured entertainment system, while some knickknacks are secured with a special kind of putty.
The purpose is to show people what can happen in their own home during an earthquake.
According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a 62 percent probability that there will be one or more quakes of magnitude 6.7 or greater within the next 30 years in the Bay Area.
USGS officials are focusing on the Hayward-Rogers Creek fault.
Stephen Walter of USGS said the lengthy fault that runs from Fremont up to Berkeley and then to Santa Rosa has a one-in-four chance of producing a shaker.
He added that Hayward's last big quake was in 1868, and the average interval between the last five large earthquakes on the southern part of the fault is 140 years. October 21 of next year will mark the quake's 140th anniversary.
A major quake on that particular fault would have an impact on San Mateo County. A number of water aqueducts and electric transmission lines that run through Hayward support the Peninsula, Walter said.
And 85 percent of Bay Area residents are still not prepared for an earthquake.
Ravi Lal of San Bruno said after being inside the simulator that his furniture and picture frames are not secured in his home.
"I have three kids," the 46-year-old said. "I now know (the house) is not good for them."
Pam Riechel said it will be simple to safeguard her house. She said when she was living in Daly City, her home only encountered minor damage when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake hit. Homes a few blocks away from her house were damaged.
"Things were off the walls," Riechel said. "You don't have to be on top of the epicenter for it to affect you."
Copyright ©2007 San Mateo County Times. Published 09/07/2007.