CASTRO VALLEY (KPIX) — On Saturday, Kathleen Johnson brought her children to Alameda County’s Disaster Preparedness Fair (part of the Urban Shield weekend event) in Castro Valley to show them how to respond to a real-life emergency.

One fascinating exhibit, called the Big Shaker, simulated the effects of a magnitude 8 earthquake. For kids who had never experienced a strong quake in their young lives, the experience was an eye-opener.

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Big Shaker

The Big Shaker earthquake simulator at the Disaster Preparedness Fair in Castro Valley. (CBS)

“There have been some minor earthquakes that they have experienced and we’ve practiced getting in the doorway, getting under a table, et cetera” Johnson said.

It has been nearly three decades since the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the Bay Area and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which sponsored the event, is working to overcome locals’ complacency.

“We’re probably in line for the next big earthquake so we need people to take this seriously. We need people to prepare. We need people to be able to sustain themselves,” said Tya Modeste, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

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Organizers’ message wasn’t limited to natural disasters, they also want to help people prepare for everyday emergencies — like a house fire. It can be difficult to find your way out of a burning building filled with smoke.

Disaster Preparedness

At the Disaster Preparedness Fair an exhibit gave visitors the experience of being in a smoke-filled burning building. (CBS)

“You always want to stay low, as low as possible,” explained Bay EMT spokesperson Jacob Ferdan. “Smoke will rise. If you stand up and breath that smoke — that’s carbon monoxide. It will cause you to pass out,” he added.

The fair featured plenty of simple — but perhaps life-saving — tips and demonstrations.

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“You never know when we’ll be hit next,” Modeste reminded visitors.