Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jacobs School Shake Table Puts Snowglobes to the Test

What would happen to your beloved Christmas decorations and family nick-knacks during an earthquake? A team of engineers at the Jacobs School helped answer this question during an episode of the TV show "Totally Unprepared."

The show was trying to help Los Angeles resident Heather Kram figure out what would happen to her unsecured collection of Nightmare Before Christmas snow globes and figurines during a temblor. The seismic testing team at the Jacobs School set up four curio cabinets filled with globes and other curios on one of the school's shake tables.

Two of the cabinets were secured to the wall with furniture straps, the doors were closed with child safety locks and the items on the shelves were glued with museum putty. Meanwhile, for the two other cabinets, the doors were just closed, without latches and their contents just sat on the shelves, unsecured. One of the two was attached to the wall with furniture straps; the other was not.

"That one cabinet doesn't look too good," said Andy Gunthardt, a senior development engineer who supervises the Jacobs School's shake tables.

All four cabinets held steady during a small simulated shaker. But during a major simulated quake, the unstrapped cabinet collapsed and snow globes and figurines flew all over the shake table. The cabinet that was strapped but didn't have museum putty or child locks was emptied of its contents too. Meanwhile, the two fully secured cabinets stood almost undisturbed.

After all the shaking was done, the show's host urged everyone to remember to get prepared. In this case, it means running to the store and getting some furniture straps, child safety locks and museum putty.

Read more about Totally Unprepared's snow globe episode here

The show is funded by the California Emergency Management Agency, the California Earthquake Authority and the California Seismic Safety Commission.