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'Quake Cottage' simulator shakes up Vancouver

Alvin Leung just survived a major earthquake. “The movement was quite intense, even though I was sitting down,” he told the Courier seconds after experiencing the violent shudders early Tuesday afternoon.

Alvin Leung just survived a major earthquake.

“The movement was quite intense, even though I was sitting down,” he told the Courier seconds after experiencing the violent shudders early Tuesday afternoon. “So I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was standing.”

Or, if the quake was real, for that matter.

Leung was one of several people who stepped into the “Quake Cottage” in a parking lot at city hall Tuesday to experience the sensation of being in an earthquake.

The event was to mark Emergency Preparedness Week in Canada and organized by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which partnered with the city and other municipalities to have a California company transport the quake simulator to Metro Vancouver.

Sitting in what resembled a small trailer, Leung rocked back and forth for about 30 seconds in a chair equipped with handles. A clip of an earthquake movie, complete with screaming people, played on a screen across from him.

Though some might liken the quake simulator to a carnival ride, it was anything but for Leung who said the movement was much worse than a small tremor he felt in B.C. years ago.

“I remember seeing the walls move or sway back and forth but it was nothing like this,” said Leung, a city worker who lives in Richmond, which is surrounded by a dike and would likely be prone to liquefaction in a major quake.

Jackie Kloosterboer, the city’s emergency planning coordinator and director of emergency social services, said the aim of the quake simulator experience was to remind people such as Leung to ensure they have an earthquake kit in place and a plan to connect with family and friends after a disaster.

With seismologists predicting the West Coast is long overdue for a major quake, Kloosterboer said being prepared means having food, water, medications and supplies at home, as well as at the workplace, where a pair or runners is a must for workers who normally wear dress shoes or high heels.

“People in Vancouver are not prepared,” said Kloosterboer, who also took a turn in the simulator. “It’s really sad because when something happens, it’s really going to be based on what you do today to prepare your family. You need to have ways to connect with your family, you need to have the supplies in place that you’re going to need and you need to do that now.”

Though the city has emergency plans in place, which includes more than 400 hundred volunteers, a major quake could delay emergency services from reaching residents.

“People need to be self-sufficient in an earthquake,” she said, adding that the city offers free training on how to prepare for an earthquake.

Shawn Ferry, safety manager of ETC Building and Design and operator of the “Quake Cottage,” said the simulator gets its name from the cottages that were built in San Francisco in 1906 after a quake devastated the city.

Ferry said cottages were built for residents because much of the houses and buildings in San Francisco were destroyed in the quake.

“Most people don’t realize how violent an earthquake can get,” he said, noting some people who tried the simulator asked him to turn it off halfway through the experience because it was too violent.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada paid US$11,000 to have the simulator brought to Metro Vancouver. Fortis donated $1,000 in Canadian dollars to each municipality that offered the simulator to the public, including Coquitlam, Richmond, District of North Vancouver, White Rock and Delta. Vancouver’s cost was $2,300 Canadian.

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