BIG, STRONG AND MEAN: Earthquakes Gone to the Dogs

A few days following the 6.0 Napa earthquake I stood in the living room of a home located about ten miles from the epicenter. This home still had its chimney in place, and was livable following the recent quake. There was significant damage to the contents of the place, however, and the homeowner lamented the nature of the earthquake.

“This was a mean one”, she said. “This earthquake knew to damage the items in my home that I cared the most about. It destroyed my china and wine glass collection!”

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard an anthropomorphic description of an earthquake. They are termed mean, vindictive and nasty. I wondered about this 6.0 magnitude temblor, and thought “how could such a relatively small earthquake be so mean, and cause problems to home and business owners throughout the region?

The answer is that the magnitude of an earthquake does not necessarily relate to the damage it causes. In fact, magnitude is only one of several measurements that are used to describe earthquakes and earthquake affects. Still, the magnitude of an earthquake is the one measurement most people think of, and the one the media uses to define earthquakes. In order to get the good idea of the entirety of earthquake description, let’s look at three different yet important measurements. We will start with magnitude.

First off, the Richter Scale has not been used since the 1970’s. What is used to describe magnitude these days is something called the Moment Magnitude Scale. The magnitude of an earthquake is a measurement of the size of an earthquake. To demonstrate, consider a couple of dogs:





As with dogs, a large magnitude earthquake isn’t necessarily stronger nor more destructive than a small magnitude earthquake.

So, to recap: The Richter Scale has been replaced by the Moment Magnitude Scale and that scale describes the SIZE of earthquakes.

Next, we will consider the Peak Ground Acceleration of an earthquake. This is a measurement of how STRONG and earthquake is. Again, consider dogs:

Here is a strong dog:


This isn’t the biggest dog, but no doubt it’s a strong one.

funny fat dog2

My guess is that this chubby fellow isn’t that strong. The Ground Acceleration of an earthquake isn’t necessarily related to, nor dependent on, the magnitude of an earthquake. Since the measurement is taken on the surface of the planet, the depth of the earthquake certainly influences this measurement.

When you think acceleration think about how you are pushed back when a car or a roller coaster accelerates. You don’t need a big car or roller coaster to go fast and get pushed about. So this measurement is different than magnitude. It is this type of motion demonstrated in the Quake Cottage Earthquake Simulator.

Lastly consider the “meanness” of an earthquake. What are its affects, how much damage does it do? There is a measurement for that, it is called the Mercalli Intensity Scale.


The 2010 Haiti Earthquake (7.0 Magnitude). Certainly there have been bigger earthquakes than the Haiti Earthquake, but few have caused more death and destruction.


Some large dogs and earthquakes are not intense. They don’t cause a lot of damage.

Big, Strong and Mean. That describes earthquakes. Not all big earthquakes are strong and mean, and if you consider only the magnitude of and earthquake you are missing much of what can give them their bite.

MAGNITUDE of an earthquake its size measured in how much energy is released
GROUND ACCELERATION of an earthquake is how strong it feels (QUAKE COTTAGE!)
INTENSITY of an earthquake is how destructive it is

Note Loma Prieta and Chile with the same PGA and different magnitudes by around 1000 times the energy release.  Note Northidge 6.7 Much higher PGA than the 8.8 Chile earthquake. Note the intensity of the Haiti earthquake despite lower magnitude and PGA than Loma Prieta.

6.9 Magnitude
.65 g Peak Ground Acceleration
9 Intensity
Duration 15-20 Seconds

6.7 Magnitude
1.7 g Peak Ground Acceleration
9 Intensity
Duration 10-20 Seconds

8.8 Magnitude
.65 g Peak Ground Acceleration
8-9 Intensity
Durations 3-5 Minutes

2011 JAPAN
9.0 Magnitude
2.99 g Peak Ground Acceleration
9 Intensity
Duration 6-8 Minutes

2010 Haiti Earthquake
7.0 Magnitude
.5 g Peak Ground Acceleration
10 Intensity
Duration 45 Seconds

Unexpected Earthquakes – Volcanoes & Lava?

Headlines this week demonstrate the volatile nature of the ground on which we live. It’s comforting to think that the earth is solid; that we can count on the landscape we know to be constant, unchanging. And if we reside in areas where earthquakes have not been a problem, it’s comforting to know that at least we don’t have to prepare for THAT type of disaster. Or do we?

Peter Yanev, earthquake expert and best-selling author told me that he believes that no matter where you are in California, you are located at a future epicenter. What about other places? What about Kalamazoo?

Yes, I said Kalamazoo. That’s because Kalamazoo, Michigan is the location of the first of Rock The Quake’s LATEST NEWS stories. Check this out:

I like how on the ball the Michigan office of Emergency Management is. They were monitoring the situation. Being from California, a 4.2 earthquake doesn’t even wake the dog.

Next, check out the latest from Yellowstone National Park:

Yikes! Now that’s scary. I’d heard of this “Super Volcano” a few years ago. I’m thinking maybe I’ll just steer clear of Yellowstone from now on. Just to be safe, maybe I’ll keep away from Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

Oh, and Oregon too. Look at the latest from off the Oregon Coast:

Okay, so when magma, the issue in Yellowstone, hits the surface it becomes lava, which is now “spewing”. I don’t like spewing lava; particularly near that huge subduction zone!

There is certainly a lot going on under our feet and off the coast of this dynamic, ever changing country. I don’t remember this sort of activity going on when I was a kid. All I could count on was California was #1 in earthquakes. Now, it looks like even that isn’t the case:

Okay, we’re #2. I guess we have to try harder.

The Sounds of Earthquake Country

As the death toll continues to rise and the horrific devastation of the Nepal earthquake is show for the world to see, I sit watching the sunrise from my hotel room in Salinas, California.

I pray for the people of Nepal, reflect on my own preparedness efforts, and ready myself for a visit to a nearby hospital, where later this morning I will meet with facilities management personnel to create a plan to secure the contents of the hospital’s sterile supply room. In the wake of a massive earthquake causing widespread damage half way across the world, we’ll be securing items in one room in one building in order to prevent earthquake damage. That’s how preparedness works, one room at a time.

We have such an advantage in California. Building codes continue to improve following each earthquake, and while to codes don’t guarantee businesses will stay open following a major event, the improve construction allows places such a hospitals the opportunity to drill down, if you will, and insure that the equipment and furniture critical to the operation of the facility after an earthquake are secured and usable.

The Napa earthquake last year provided a good example of this large to small aspect preparedness. I was onsite the day after the earthquake, and saw many crumbled building fronts and chimneys, building contents thrown all over the place, and suspended ceiling in the parking lot behind buildings rather that suspending from the ceiling as they should be.


Yet for all of this, what has stayed with me the most following this earthquake was the 911 calls. Listen to this:

Before you get too complacent regarding the relative strength of your home of workplace in comparison to similar structures in places such as Nepal and Haiti, consider the real possibility, after listening to the recordings, that you or a loved one may not be able to get out of a room. Consider the possibility that there may be no light in that room as well.

Preparedness on a small scale, one room or one piece of furniture, but continued for the long haul is how to get truly ready for a devastating earthquake.


Banners hung from light poles announced April as Earthquake Preparedness Month as we headed down Santa Monica Boulevard this morning, rolling into Beverly Hills with the Quake Cottage Earthquake Simulator. I think this was our eighth consecutive year at the city’s Earth Day Farmers Market, and each year the event seems to get significantly larger.

We show up, set up, and shake up event attendees, teaching riders the basics of earthquake readiness, and informing parents on how to keep their children safe from the damage an earthquake can cause. The simulator contains multiple items held in place by the incredible, peel and stick Safe-T-Proof Fastening System, and riders not only can feel which high-intensity ground motion is like, but also see that the fastening down of items really does work.


The continual, year after year appearance at one location affords me the opportunity to see what people are interested in doing to prepare themselves and their families as the months pass. Each year the focus seems to be on a different aspect of readiness. I find these annual changes in priorities for people fascinating.

As an example, two years ago many of the attendees needed help in securing building contents in their respective apartments. It seemed as though the word had gotten out—if you live in an apartment in Beverly Hills, secure contents now! Last year’s event followed by a few weeks a 5.1 earthquake in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles, just a few miles from Beverly Hills. Earth Day event attendees seemed rattled by that March 28th temblor. It seemed the most common questions during the day had to do with preparedness at work. “How do I secure my work?” was a common query, to which we replied with, “First, let’s get you out of your office!” We gave guidance and offered up for sale workplace fasteners to keep file cabinets and bookshelves in place.

This year, a bit removed from any recent local seismic activity, we had a lot of folks interested in emergency food and water. A lot of people indicated the food in their kit had expired, and they just wanted replacement food. The new Safe-T-Proof radio flashlight was a very popular item this year as well, particularly once people found out that the device also charges cell phones (Yes, I-Phones too). We ended up selling out of food, water and radios in Beverly Hills this year.

Another item that sparked enormous interest, and one that I sold out of way too early at the event, was the flat screen television fasteners. I could have guessed this.   Recent reports regarding household accidents from television and furniture tip-over are staggering and have moved the securing of items beyond the realm of earthquake preparedness, and into the not-so-regional arena of family safety.

All in all, it was another wonderful Earth Day with the Quake Cottage in Beverly Hills.



Sure it’s over the top. Certainly its fantasy to the nth degree. But when the new Warner Bros. Studios movie San Andreas in theaters on May 29th, people all over earthquake country will feel the shock-wave.

Now, to be clear, no actual earthquake will ever approximate the devastation this movie depicts. Check out this trailer: San Andreas – Official Teaser Trailer. In reality, California is not going to fall into the ocean in an earthquake; no temblor will ever cause all of the skyscrapers in Los Angeles to crumble, and a tsunami will never destroy the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, future Rock the Quake blogs will explain why Southern California won’t ever fall prey to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Still, doesn’t the movie look exciting?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of heading out with the one of our Quake Cottage earthquake simulators to a studio in Los Angeles where MTV filmed several vignettes promoting the movie. They aired on the MTV Movie Awards on April 12th.   Duane Johnson, better known as The Rock, was there. Not only was he kind and funny, but he held his balance—standing up inside the simulator while it was rocking—better than anyone I’ve seen before. Must be all of that surfing experience.









While disaster movies are often hit and miss at the box office, I have my own hopes for San Andreas. Here they are:

  • This movie will Rock!
  • This movie will generate a lot of talk about earthquakes.
  • People will understand the fantasy, and will be inspired to prepare for the real thing, and be ready when the next big earthquake hits.

Take a look at some of these shocking historical photos of earthquake devastation.


How do we know if steps taken to reduce damage before an earthquake really work once the ground starts shaking?

For decades building codes have been chasing the damage, as each new earthquake reveals vulnerabilities in construction and preparedness methodologies. As far back as the 1930’s, when the Long Beach earthquake severely damaged school buildings, the powers that be have reacted to the specific damage caused in a specific earthquake to adjust building criteria to prevent the type of damage that occurred in that earthquake from ever happening again. That earthquake damaged many school buildings, and spurned the creation of the Field Act; legislation that was designed to keep schools from falling down in earthquakes. As years pass and earthquakes damage different types of critical facilities, laws are passed and codes are re-written to prevent a reoccurrence of the specific damage that just happened. Hospitals, power plants, tall buildings and residences have joined school buildings, and are now built differently in many earthquake prone areas than they used to be. And whether we are talking buildings or their non-structural components, that still begs the question: will it all work in a large earthquake?

Next Tuesday, April 7th the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California (SEONC) will be hosting a meeting where some groundbreaking information regarding advances in earthquake engineering will be introduced to the engineering community and public at large. What makes this information particularly striking is that it is coming out BEFORE a large earthquake strikes the region. (Unless, of course a big quake hits between now and then).

In a bold and proactive move, Oakland California’s EStructure structural engineering firm and Safe-T-Proof Disaster Preparedness Co. ran tests comparing the traditional anchorage of equipment with rigid steel brackets with the use of flexible, adhesive-based fastening. Items were run through extremely high intensity shaking at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research facility in Richmond, California.

Titled “Seismic Protection Design for Non Structural Components-What Really Happens When It Shakes?” the presentation will demonstrate how items such as laboratory refrigerators and freezers with what is considered “code compliant” anchorage really do perform in high intensity shaking.   Are there better options to what has been longstanding tradition?

You don’t need to wait for an earthquake to find out.

Arizona Earthquakes?

When I was first invited to bring the one of our Quake Cottage™ earthquake simulators to Yuma, Arizona for an earthquake preparedness summit my first thought was, “They have earthquakes in Arizona?”

I did some research and discovered that most certainly Arizona is earthquake country. The state is criss-crossed with something called “The Transition Zone”, and area of regular seismic activity that separates the Colorado Plateau in the north and east from the Basin and Range Province to the south and west. Frequent temblors occur in the transitional region, with the capability of producing up to magnitude 7 events.

The Yuma area itself not only can be impacted by these earthquakes, but also by activity from the San Andreas Fault system to the west and north, as well as the earthquake activity in Mexico. The 2010 Easter Sunday 7.2 earthquake caused some intense shaking in Yuma, and as the subsequent aftershocks marched north in a rather systematic fashion, toward the San Andreas Fault, no doubt nerves in the entire region of southwestern Arizona were rattled.

Tomorrow night the Quake Cottage™ will be on display for the entire Yuma community to experience. The media has been alerted, and we are expecting a high turnout. In addition, the preparedness summit and handyman training that bracket the public event are shaping up to be well attended. Next week’s Rock The Quake will let you know how things turned out.

New USGS findings attributed to Fault Jumping

One consistent thing in the ever changing world of earthquake readiness is the ever-streaming influx of new information.  This week’s Rock The Quake will take a look at the latest information from the USGS, and what it means to Californians.

Last week multiple media outlets LA Times and Reading Eagle reported that the probability of an 8.0 or greater earthquake in the state in the next thirty years had nearly doubled. The sad truth is that, news such as this, rarely moves the needle in getting people to take the steps to get earthquake ready. An actual earthquake is the best motivator, and Californians all over the state stepped up readiness efforts following last year’s earthquake in Napa. Studies show earthquake drills and simulations also move the needle in overall earthquake readiness.

The USGS findings moved the probability of a 1906 San Francisco Earthquake-sized event occurring in the next thirty years from four percent to an over seven percent chance.  So, the likelihood of this type of earthquake hitting before 2045 is still low.  But, as the Northridge, Sylmar and Loma Prieta earthquakes demonstrated, the relation between magnitude of and damage caused by an earthquake is loose at best.

What is fascinating about the new information is that the rise in probability is attributed to a phenomena called “Fault Jumping”.  I first heard of this idea described about quake-prone regions in Turkey and then again after the Easter earthquake in Mexicali, when aftershocks seemed to march northward toward the Salton Sea and the San Andreas.  Fault Jumping means more than one fault can fracture during a single event, which raises the overall energy release and corresponding magnitude.

When I take a step back and look at the scientific study of earthquakes I realize that it is a relatively new endeavor.  We will continue to gain vital knowledge about the nature of earthquakes, with each revelation inspiring folks to take a step toward readiness.

Written by Glen Granholm, VP of Safe-T-Proof Disaster Preparedness Co., Inc.

ROCK THE QUAKE – The Quake Cottage Blog

Welcome to Rock the Quake, the official blog for the Quake Cottage earthquake simulator

This blog will feature the latest earthquake news from all around earthquake country. Utilizing resources from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the United States Geological Survey and more, we will provide the most up to date earthquake information.

Not only that, you’ll be able to check out the latest news regarding the fleet of Quake Cottage earthquake simulators, featuring such cool news as the upcoming appearance of the Quake Cottage on the MTV Movie Awards show, featuring The Rock, Duane Johnson promoting his upcoming movie “San Andreas” from on-board one of the simulators. More Quake Cottage excitement is on the way, including a simulator tour of British Columbia, and an appearance at the huge Wango Tango festival in Los Angeles.

As an added feature, you’ll get all of the latest information on this year’s Great California ShakeOut exercise (link to, and the latest adventures of The Fastenators, our team of elite earthquake readiness specialists (they’re not what you think!).

So, check back in weekly, hold onto your hats, and get ready to Rock the Quake!

Get Ready for The Ultimate Quake Cottage!

The original Quake Cottage was developed in 1994 to demonstrate the need to secure furniture, equipment and other objects inside building structures to prevent injury in the event of a serious earthquake. It is a Its success in educating the public about disaster preparedness has led to the development of The Ultimate Quake Cottage.

The Ultimate Quake Cottage will be the largest earthquake simulator that we have built to date. Some of the new features will include:

• Overall size will be 6 times larger than the original Quake Cottage
• Holds eight seated individuals compared to the original’s four seats
• Mounted on a truck instead of a trailer bed
• State-of-the-art AV system
• Pre-ride educational video
• On-board interactive information kiosk

The Ultimate Quake Cottage is slated for release during Spring 2015… Stay tuned!

Booking inquiries can be made by calling (800) 377-8888 or emailing