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Children at the John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to handle a fire hose with the Sagamihara City Fire Department Wednesday.

Children at the John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to handle a fire hose with the Sagamihara City Fire Department Wednesday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

Children at the John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to handle a fire hose with the Sagamihara City Fire Department Wednesday.

Children at the John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to handle a fire hose with the Sagamihara City Fire Department Wednesday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

Pupils at John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to experience an earthquake machine.

Pupils at John O. Arnn Elementary School get an opportunity to experience an earthquake machine. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

SAGAMIHARA HOUSING AREA, Japan — “Children, what’s the first thing you do in an earthquake? Hide under the table,” Gunner Newman, U.S. Army Garrison Japan community relations chief, told the five youngsters.

Moments later, the little room atop a truck began to rattle and shake, simulating an earthquake.

Giggles and laughter followed the children as they dashed under the table.

The earthquake truck was brought by Sagamihara City firefighters to John O. Arnn Elementary School, as part of an earthquake awareness day Wednesday.

“Because we’re in such an earthquake-prone area we always want to be prepared,” said assistant principal Carla Jackson. “We hope it will be familiar from now on.”

Pupils in each grade level experienced the earthquake truck, which simulates some of Japan’s famous earthquakes. Firefighters also helped the children spray a target with a fire hose. American Red Cross representatives gave out coloring books on earthquake and fire safety.

Newman organized the event on the recommendation of U.S. Army Garrison Japan leaders, who realized the necessity of such training after the massive earthquake last year in Niigata Prefecture, Newman said.

“That really struck close to home,” he said.

He learned about Sagamihara’s earthquake truck after attending a city earthquake preparedness event last year. The city loaned the truck to the base along with a smoke house, which models a house fire. Children crawled through the small smoky tent to practice covering their mouths and staying low in a fire.

“It’s foggy, I don’t like this smoke,” one youngster protested.

Newman said the Army plans to replicate the program at other posts.

The real-life experience helps the message hit home.

“The students get to actually practice what they read and what they hear,” he said.

Second-grader Elaine Stewart said the earthquake truck was a little scary. But now she knows exactly what to do when the ground starts to shake:

“I would get under the table and I would stay there until it wasn’t moving anymore.”


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