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Earthquake awareness heightens in Sparks
by Garrett Valenzuela
Oct 16, 2012 | 10271 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Stephen Driscoll, emergency manager for the City of Sparks, addresses earthquake safety Monday in preparation for the annual Great Nevada ShakeOut. The event takes place Thursday at 10:18 a.m.
Stephen Driscoll, emergency manager for the City of Sparks, addresses earthquake safety Monday in preparation for the annual Great Nevada ShakeOut. The event takes place Thursday at 10:18 a.m.
SPARKS — After seeing nearly 200,000 people register for the Great Nevada ShakeOut earthquake awareness event in 2011, the now worldwide drill is seeing its biggest turnout in its three-year history.

Nevada was the first state to join California in spreading awareness and encouraging preparedness of earthquakes, and now states such as Alaska and countries such as Japan and New Zealand are joining in the effort. For the city of Sparks, the timing of this event is perfect and it is set to take place Thursday at 10:18 a.m.

“The research that the university (of Nevada, Reno) has done shows that with the major faults we have running through the valley, it is just a matter of time before we have a 6.5 to 7.5 or larger,” said Stephen Driscoll, assistant city and emergency manager for the City of Sparks, Monday. “Having activity in the Spanish Springs valley, it just reminds us that the big one will probably be here soon. And we don’t know when so being prepared and getting the information that you need to is very critical.”

The UNR Seismological Laboratory reported more than 100 small earthquakes in the Spanish Springs valley between Oct. 8 and Sunday. The report stated the quakes were between five and eight miles below the surface and “too small to be felt.” The activity, however, does warn of possible larger quakes to follow.

“We know that we have done a lot of seismic retrofit, but things are going to break,” Driscoll said. “We are going to lose roads, water in, water out and communication systems will be overburdened as with any disaster. It is important for us to know that we need to be ready and what the shakeout does for us is have us practice.”

The Great Nevada ShakeOut drill calls for participants to “drop, cover and hold on” as if there were a major earthquake and to stay in that position for one minute. Seismological experts said living in northern Nevada comes with a major responsibility to be prepared.

“We need to realize that we do live with threats of earthquakes in northern Nevada. Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the United States,” said Ken Smith, associate director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at UNR. “There is a bigger issue about the shakeout and that is earthquake preparedness. When you survive the shaking of an earthquake, with your family or businesses, there is an initial response that happens after a big event, but in the long term we want to build a resilient and mature community and society that knows how to recover economically.”

Driscoll agreed that preparation would be most important in the event of an earthquake.

“What we do know about disasters is that when they do hit, the first responders, in the City of Sparks specifically, are going to be very busy taking care of the big things,” Driscoll said. “We are going to be dealing with personal private safety, medical emergencies and infrastructure failures so it is very important that people who have survived the disaster are able to take care of themselves for 72 hours or maybe longer.”

Robert Villegas, public affairs specialist for State Farm Insurance Agency, said relatively low percentages of people register for earthquake insurance in Nevada. Being the largest carrier of such insurance in the state, Villegas said a small minority of customers in the area opt for earthquake insurance.

“Even in California where they have had some major earthquakes, only 12 or 13 percent of people apply for earthquake insurance,” Villegas said. “In Nevada it is one of those issues where it is a personal decision for our customers. But in the north part of the state people are susceptible to it because of the mountain geography.”

Villegas referred to the Nevada Division of Insurance for consumers to find step-by-step assistance on the probability of earthquakes in Nevada, when to buy earthquake insurance and other useful information. The information can be found at

Mike Wolterbeek, media relations officer at UNR, said that every school district in Nevada has signed up to participate in the Great Nevada ShakeOut and more than 18 million will participate worldwide. The “drop, cover and hold on” event will happen Thursday at 10:18 a.m. across the state. Participants are encouraged to stop where they are and find safe covering.

Additional information about the Great Nevada ShakeOut, earthquake safety and preparedness can be found at Preparedness tips can be found online at, and covers tips such as earthquake-proofing your home, preparing a personal plan of action, making an emergency supply kit and examining the structural integrity of the building.
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