From: Campus Police
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 2:12 PM
Subject: Earthquake Information

As the earthquake sequence in west Reno continues, several frequently asked questions have emerged. We are fortunate to have our state’s foremost experts on earthquake science and preparedness right here on campus. Several of these scientists and other facilities experts have contributed to the answers below:


Q: Is a large-scale earthquake predicted?


A: No. Scientists in the Nevada Seismological Laboratory remind us that earthquakes cannot be predicted. There is a small chance that a given earthquake is a foreshock of a larger one. On the basis of historical seismic records, the Laboratory estimates there is a two percent probability that a given earthquake is a foreshock of an earthquake with a magnitude 1.0 unit higher within the next 10 days.  For example, there would be a two percent probability of a magnitude 6.0 within 10 days after a magnitude 5.0. However, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the probability of experiencing a magnitude 6.0 or larger earthquake within 50 kilometers of Reno sometime over the course of the next 50 years is approximately 67 percent. See for details.


This earthquake sequence has reminded us that we live in a seismically active region and MUST be prepared for the possibility of a large-scale earthquake.


Q: What about older buildings on campus?


A: Just as an earthquake cannot be predicted, how a particular building will fare in an earthquake cannot be accurately predicted. Some of the older buildings on campus (particularly those built prior to 1943) are of a construction known as unreinforced masonry and may be more susceptible to damage than newer buildings. These older, unreinforced-masonry buildings have experienced and survived several previous earthquakes, including a magnitude 6.1 in Reno in 1914, a magnitude 6.0 near Verdi in 1948.


Research has shown that most earthquake injuries are the result of falling items such as furniture, heavy pictures, mirrors or glass. In this country, full-scale building collapse is extremely unusual. University geologists point to the experience in Wells, Nev., which sustained a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in February 2008. Older buildings that had not been properly maintained did sustain considerable structural damage. Buildings that had been maintained, including unreinforced masonry buildings, sustained far less damage. No deaths and very few injuries were reported in Wells.


The University is implementing a long-term plan to retrofit the campus’s unreinforced masonry buildings. To date, the Frandsen Humanities and Mackay Mines have been seismically retrofitted.


Q: Are there special preparedness instructions for older buildings?


A: No. The suggested preparedness steps are the same for all buildings, including your own home. “Living With Earthquakes in Nevada,“ a free earthquake preparedness guide published by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and sponsored by several agencies with expertise in safety and earthquake preparedness, provides extensive information about how to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake and how to respond when the shaking starts. It was distributed as an insert in the May 4 edition of the Reno Gazette-Journal and is available at or


Q: Which is the correct advice: “duck, cover and hold” or the “triangle of life”?


A: Experts agree on the action to take during an earthquake: duck, cover and hold.


The Nevada Earthquake Safety Council was part of a broad national coalition of agencies, including the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which endorsed the duck, cover and hold approach. It is a simple premise, based on research that has shown that most injuries sustained during an earthquake are the result of falling items or debris.


If severe shaking starts, it will be difficult to more: do not try to run outside or to another room. Instead, it is best to duck under a table or desk. Next, cover your head and eyes with your hands and arms, and turn away from possible breaking glass or falling objects. Finally, hold onto the desk or table so that it doesn’t move away from you. If there isn’t a desk or table nearby, crouch near an inside wall and cover your head and eyes with your hands and arms.


E-mails and Internet reports continue to circulate and incorrectly promote a “triangle of life” response. It is unfortunate that this urban myth continues and attempts to spur controversy about the duck, cover and hold response.


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To emphasize, “Living With Earthquakes in Nevada,” a free earthquake preparedness guide, can help you prepare at work or at home for the possibility of an earthquake. It was distributed as an insert in the May 4 edition of the Reno Gazette-Journal and is available online at or




Adam Garcia


University of Nevada

Police Services