More than 590,000 people take part in Great Nevada Shakeout

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Sparks, Nev. (KOLO) Fourth graders at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Sparks knew exactly what to do at 10:20 a.m. on Thursday when they were told to pretend there was a big earthquake happening. They had to drop, cover, and hold on to something sturdy for 60 seconds.

"They have been practicing in the classroom," said April Carroll, assistant principal of Lincoln Park Elementary School.

It's an important drill that went on in classrooms and work places around the state for the Great Nevada Shakeout. Experts say it's not a matter of if the next big one hits, but when.

"When we look at an average of earthquakes over a long period of time, we can expect three magnitude 7's every hundred years and ten magnitude 6's every hundred years," said Annie Kell, seismologist with the UNR Seismology Lab.

Kell says it has been 62 years since the area has experienced a 6.5 magnitude quake or larger which shows we have the potential. But people may not think about it.

"People forget and people don't think about how they have to have a kit and have to have a plan," said Kell.

Earthquakes are definitely something Washoe County Emergency Management officials prepare for on a regular basis. The Western Nevada area has the highest earthquake hazard in the state. The area has the largest earthquake faults and some of the highest levels of recorded earthquake activity. The region also has some of the highest slip-rates and geodetically measured deformation in the state. Washoe County Emergency Management Officials have an extensive regional plan in place for crews to quickly come together if a large earthquake were to strike.

"It will be all hands on deck," said Aaron Kenneston, "Fire, law enforcement, public works... all working together through the crisis from response to recovery and cleanup."

Kenneston is urging families to prepare now for the next big quake. He advises people to do a simple walkaround of their homes to check for any big bookcases that are not secured to the wall. He says to secure those now and put childproof locks on cabinets. He also recommends everyone put together an emergency preparedness kit.

According to the UNR Seismology Laboratory, Nevada ranks in the top three states subject to the most large-scale earthquakes during the last 150 years.