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'Shakey-Quakey' vans simulate earthquakes for students

March 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a dramatic way to shake things up on campus, and Monday students at one Altadena middle school got a jolting lesson in science. The students found out what it's like to experience and survive a powerful earthquake.

We know it's just a matter of time before the next earthquake hits Southern California. But now, students at Eliot Middle School know what it's like to experience one firsthand.

"It was really rocky. It kind of felt like a kind of lame roller-coaster, because I've been on some weird roller-coasters in my time," said 6th-grade student Molly Schwartz.

"It felt like just an unharmful earthquake," said 6th-grade student Vincent White.

L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and the L.A. County Fire Department unveiled the new fleet of "Shakey-Quakey Schoolhouse" earthquake-simulator vans Monday. The goal is to teach kids how to be safe, and also to go home and help their families prepare.

"Just be cool if there's an earthquake and try to stay away from windows," said White.

"It was like all shaking and cool, and now I can know how it really feels to feel an earthquake," said 6th-grader Abigail Medina. "Over here, near my home, there's tiny little earthquakes, but not as big as these, so now I know how it feels."

"It just shows us that we should be careful, and before stuff falls on us in a classroom, we should get under a desk and be careful," said Chris Shaw, one of the 6th-grade students who participated.

The original simulator came out in the 1980s, but the hydraulic systems are upgraded and now seat nine kids. They're also wheelchair-accessible.

Firefighters say the $1.2-million simulators will save lives by teaching thousands of students what to do when the time comes.

"It's not really scary, because I've never really been in a big one, but I don't know, after today, I just realized how real it all is," said Molly Schwartz. "It's like, whoa, we could actually die!"

And now they have the tools and awareness to stay alive.