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Kids get giggles, not screams, from 'Shakey Quakey' simulator

March 12, 2012 |  2:21 pm


Earthquakes are no laughing matter, but you wouldn’t know it by the reactions of some Altadena middle schoolers.

A handful of giggling students got to experience a magnitude 3.5 earthquake in one of three new "Shakey Quakey Schoolhouse" vans unveiled Monday morning at Pasadena Unified's Elliot Middle School in Altadena.

Inside the simulators about 10 students watched a short video in which Yogi Bear gave his classic "Hey, kids!" greeting, then urged the students to hold on tight during the shaking. The students ducked and covered under school desks, which were bolted to the floor, and watched as stuffed animals on one side of the compartment flew into the air.

By the time the shaking ended, a stuffed Bugs Bunny was hanging by his two buck teeth on a bungee cord, and Carla Prieto, 11, was clutching a Tweety Bird for protection. After the initial run-through, students asked to feel the shaking again and operators obliged, running several more simulations that ran up to magnitude 5.0.  

"I wasn’t scared," Prieto said. "It felt weird and cool."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and officials from the L.A. County Fire Department organized the hourlong kickoff event. The three, brightly painted vans, which officials said cost the county $1.2 million, replaced the original simulators that first traveled around the Southland in the early '80s.

County spokesman Tony Bell said more than 500,000 kids have already experienced the shakes and quakes. But he had a slightly different take than Prieto.

"The kids were all at once scared and prepared," he said. "They really got a good lesson in what it’s going to feel like when The Big One hits.”

 Moving forward, Bell said, the vans will take the road and shake and quake for "anyone that wants it."

"We’re getting emails from schools already," he said.


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Photo: Molly Schwartz, 12, and Elliot Middle School classmates experience a simulated magnitude 3.5 earthquake in one of three new "Shakey Quakey Schoolhouse" vans Monday. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times