Earthquake preparedness is key in case ‘Big One’ hits Northern Nevada |

Earthquake preparedness is key in case ‘Big One’ hits Northern Nevada

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Amy Lisenbe/Nevada Appeal Mark Twain Elementary School second-graders Henry Enge, front, and Jasmine Peralta, back, duck and cover as part of an earthquake preparedness drill Monday morning.

One of the biggest aftershocks of last Friday’s earthquake may be the waves of reactionary preparation for the next “Big One.”

Carsonites, some of whom spent the weekend being shaken by the many smaller seismic waves in the aftermath of Friday’s magnitude 4.9 earthquake eight miles west of Reno, were back to work and school Monday – but with a renewed look at preparation.

And that preparation is key, researchers said.

John Anderson, professor of geophysics at the University of Nevada, Reno and director of the Nevada Seismological laboratory, said it’s important residents be prepared in case a “large” earthquake were to hit.

“I would say (Friday’s) earthquake was smallish,” he said. “… one jump in magnitude is a factor of 10 bigger and 30 in energy – in other words, a magnitude 6 will cause some real damage.”

Friday’s earthquake was not tied to any specific fault, Anderson said.

With some 30 faults in western Nevada, including the Genoa fault that runs through Carson City, the chances are great a bigger fault-related earthquake could be on the horizon, he said.

“Western Nevada has a really high seismic hazard,” Anderson said. “It’s not as high as California near the San Andreas fault, but it’s higher than places slightly removed from (that fault) like Orange County or the Palos Verdes peninsula in Los Angeles.

“People think the hazard isn’t high because we’re not California – that kind of thinking is over.”

Local Allstate insurance broker Dennis Brinson said his office was “swamped with calls” Monday.

Brinson, who’s been selling insurance in Carson City for 23 years, said about 10 years ago he started doing research on earthquake insurance, trying to answer the question: “Do people really need this?”

“I talked to all kinds of folks at the UNR seismology department,” he said. “They told me about the hazard in the area. Finally, I asked one of the guys, ‘Do you have earthquake insurance?’ He said, without pausing, ‘yes’.”

Brinson said he recommends to policy holders if they own a home here, earthquake insurance is a must.

“What I tell people is that there may never be a fire – but there will eventually be an earthquake.”

Earthquake insurance generally runs homeowners between $300 and $1,000 a year, he said. He warned that deductibles on earthquake policy are also high (about 10 percent).

“It does sound expensive, but if you have a $500,000 house, and you have to come up with $50,000, that’s a lot better than using all of your retirement or having to take out another mortgage,” he said. “I’m not an opportunist, and if this wasn’t a risk, I wouldn’t be telling customers it was. But, I’ve heard from more than one seismologist – it is.”

Notable earthquakes here in the last century include a magnitude 6 in Verdi in 1948 and a pair of magnitude 6 earthquakes in Reno in 1914.

Carson City School District officials, who reported Monday that no damage had been done to any of the schools Friday, implored individual school sites to conduct emergency and earthquake preparedness drills this week.

Mark Twain Elementary was one of the first campuses to go over the drill Monday morning.

“Well we actually had our (last) earthquake drill in January – so it wasn’t too long ago,” said Principal Laura Austin. “But – we got a call from the superintendent’s office this morning, checking in, making sure we’re OK and expressing concern that we (do another) drill.

“So, that’s what we did.”

Austin said the drill, which featured classrooms of students taking the traditional “duck and cover” positions under their desk during a simulated earthquake, and then exiting the building congregating on school grounds in designated emergency evacuation spots, went “smoothly.”

“The teachers have it down – and so do the students,” she said. “Nobody is overly concerned, but it’s something we all thought about over the weekend. And my first concern is that we are prepared.”

Kevin Curnes, the school district’s safety services manager, said he has “long been aware Nevada’s the number three earthquake state in the Union” (behind Alaska and California), and he thinks now’s a “perfect time” to remind people about earthquake readiness.

“It’s a pretty simple drill, but effective,” he said. “I lived through the Loma Prieta (1989) earthquake in San Francisco – and I know what they can do.

“All we can do is be prepared.”

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.

Earthquake HistoryA brief history of earthquakes 6.0 and higher in seismically active Nevada:

• June 3, 1887 – Carson Valley Earthquake – magnitude 6.3

• October 2, 1915 – Three consecutive earthquakes in Lovelock, Winnemucca and Pleasant Valley – magnitude 7.75

• December 20, 1932 – Cedar Mountain Earthquake – magnitude 7.3

• January 30, 1934 -Excelsior Mountain Earthquake – magnitude 6.5

• July- August, 1954 – Fallon earthquakes – magnitudes 6.4-6.8

• December 16, 1954 – Fallon Earthquake – magnitude 7.1

• October 28, 1979 – Carson Valley Earthquake – magnitude 6.3

A study by the University of Nevada in 1965 tabulated 1,173 earthquakes with epicenters within the state during the 1852 to 1961 period. Another 586 having magnitudes greater than 4.0 were recorded.