Titans embrace Great Shakeout with earthquake simulator

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Several students inside the simulator, feeling a 7.2 earthquake.
(Joshua Arief Halim / Daily Titan)

An earthquake simulator in the central Quad on Wednesday gave Titans a feel for the type of seismic movement that occurred during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The earthquake resulted in 57 deaths, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department Historical Archives.

“You can really get (a) sense of how powerful it is and really how scary it is to actually experience an earthquake of that magnitude,” said Sue Fisher, Cal State Fullerton’s emergency management coordinator.

The simulator was a mobile trailer that mirrored the inside of a home, giving students, staff and faculty firsthand experience of what happens to unsecured household possessions during a large earthquake.

When an earthquake strikes, the main causes of death or injury are unsecured objects toppling over, collapsing walls, flying glass or people trying to move around during the shaking, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The mobile earthquake simulator was part of campus efforts to prepare students for potential earthquakes during Great ShakeOut Month, according to the campus emergency preparedness website.

“When you sit in (the simulator) you realize how powerful an earthquake is. A 7.2 is probably in the range that we would expect from the San Andreas fault movement, but then again it could actually be more powerful than that,” Fisher said. “It really kind of puts it in perspective — the importance of preparedness.”

Sinan Akciz, a CSUF geology professor, and some geology students set up maps showing areas in Orange County that are at risk for liquefaction.

Liquefaction occurs when soil loses its strength due to shaking from an earthquake. The space between the soil particles fills with water, increasing the water pressure and creating an unstable foundation. This phenomenon can result in landslides or the collapse of dams, according to the University of Washington website.

“Normally when people think about earthquakes, they think about laying straight on the fault line and that would be the major disaster. It’s usually not directly the fault that is the result or the problem,” said Christian Concha, a geology major.

Liquefied soil loses its density and ultimately the ability to support roads, buried pipes and  houses. The liquefaction destabilizes foundations and causes sinking, according to California Earthquake Authority.

As part of the event, the geology club set up a machine demonstrating how liquefaction works.

“Liquefaction is something the general public is not really aware of and it’s a concern in the Orange County area. We’re doing a public outreach to make people aware of that phenomenon,” Akciz said.

Fisher said she helped organize the ShakeOut activities because students, staff and faculty need to know what to do to mitigate the dangers caused by earthquakes.

This includes securing objects in homes, having a disaster plan, organizing emergency kits and considering earthquake-related insurance, according to California Earthquake Authority.

“Being prepared for that is (of the) utmost importance because we want people not only to survive the earthquake, but to survive it well. That’s the key,” Fisher said.

The ShakeOut activities will be followed by a campuswide Drop, Cover and Hold On! drill Oct. 17 at 10:10 a.m. and at 7:10 p.m. There will be no building evacuations, according to the emergency preparedness center.

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