By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
The small cottage parked near Kokomo High School shook violently Thursday, and boxes fell off shelves.
The Kokomo High School students sitting inside the home bounced around and fought to stay in their seats. Some of the students screamed. Others laughed.
It was the first time the teens had ever experienced a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. When the 20-second event was over, many breathed a sigh of relief. They said they were thankful it wasn’t real.
“It would be scary to wake up to that,” said junior Cassidy Lanning.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Geological Survey brought their Quake Cottage to Kokomo Thursday to warn students of the dangers of earthquakes.
The simulator, one of only three in the United States, mimics the shaking experienced during earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 3.0 to 7.0.
A 3.0 is the lowest magnitude quake that can be felt by a human, said Walter Gray, education outreach coordinator for the Quake Cottage. A 7.0 is the largest quake Indiana is likely to see, he said.
But most people in the state are complacent and don’t think an earthquake of that power will strike, Gray said. Even worse, they have the misconception that a 7.0 earthquake wouldn’t be that bad, he said.
Kokomo High School students thought differently Thursday.
Lanning and some of her classmates said they had never felt an earthquake before. Many said they couldn’t even imagine what a real quake would feel like.
They came to a consensus after their simulation, though. It was worse than they had imagined.
A few students left the simulation feeling shaken and disoriented.
“I feel like I’m still moving,” student Brianna Scott said. “It looks less rough from the outside.”
The teens were sitting in a chair during the fake quake, and many struggled to stay seated as the cottage shook violently.
Teacher Vince Lorenz pointed out to the kids that they were able to brace themselves for the simulated natural disaster. If that happened in real life, they likely wouldn’t be so lucky.
“When an earthquake hits, you never know when,” Lorenz said. “You’re not going to have time to hold on.”
That’s why Indiana residents should prepare for an earthquake, though many won’t, Gray said.
“No one in California is surprised when there is an earthquake,” he said. “We have earthquakes so infrequently here that people do not expect them. We know that we’re not prepared here.”
The U.S. Geological Survey recently said there is a 25 to 40 percent chance a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake will hit the Central United States in the next 50 years.
Gray said there have been four or five strong earthquakes with at least a magnitude of 6.0 in Indiana in the last 12,000 years.
The last earthquake that could be felt in the Kokomo area was Dec. 30, 2010. A magnitude 3.8 earthquake occurred five miles from Greentown. Residents in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois reported feeling the quake, according to the Indiana Geological Survey.
It likely won’t be the last.
“While a large earthquake that will seriously affect southwestern Indiana is inevitable, it is currently impossible to predict when the next ‘big one’ will occur, or even whether it will happen during our lifetimes,” the Indiana Geological Survey reports on its website. “While fearing the inevitable is pointless, it would be prudent for government officials and citizens to begin taking basic steps to prepare for a major quake.”
That’s the point of the Quake Cottage, Gray said. He wants to get students thinking about the dangers and how to prepare themselves.
He reminded the students Thursday that in the event of an earthquake, they should drop, cover and hold on.
“If we teach them as students, they will remember it as adults,” he said.
It appeared Thursday, though, that students didn’t remember those basic commands from their earthquake drills at school.
“We have earthquake drills?” junior Wes Martin asked.
Lorenz said the school had a drill recently.
After thinking for a minute, Lanning remembered the earthquake drill was the one where you take cover under a desk.
“We barely have them,” she said.