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Earthquake simulator: Should we get one in Washington?

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SEATTLE -- In Japan, disaster education centers are getting people prepared for the 'big one' by giving them a chance to experience a simulated quake and typhoon.

The Seattle Times reports, that in some training centers, visitors navigate life-size dioramas of crushed cars and teetering power poles while being quizzed on the best response to dangerous situations.

You might think that's extreme, but some leaders in Washington state would like to build this type of educational tool here. At one point, there was a proposal to build an earthquake training facility at Seattle Center.

Advocates say they hope it would help foster more awareness and urgency to be prepared.

The proposal never came to fruition because city officials, at the time, couldn't find a way to pay for the facility.

Earthquake preparedness has been at the forefront lately, with a recent swarm of small quakes hitting near the Kitsap Peninsula.

John Vidale, a state seismologist, and UW professor said there are several theories on the reason behind the quakes.

Vidale says the source of the swarms could be from the ocean floor from far off-shore being dragged down underneath Western Washington. It's a plate tectonic boundary called the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The Juan de Fuca is diving underneath the North American plate. As the plate gets deep enough towards the hot core of the Earth, the water that's released from the rocks 15 miles down could be working its way back upwards. Vidale says the water is light and buoyant compared to the heavier rocks and mineral compounds which would sink.

Source: USGS

"So we think the water is pulsing through all these cracks in the ground and just flowing continuously. And sometimes the [water] pressure builds up and pushes aside the fault and lets there be some [seismic] activity," Vidale said.

Vidale also said the swarm is nothing unusual for the Puget Sound, but it's always good to be prepared.