A series of small earthquakes rattled western Nevada Friday morning, fraying the already raw nerves of state workers in the Kinkead Building.
The quakes put an exclamation point on Thursday's presentation by Human Resources Director Mike Willden asking the legislative Interim Finance Committee to move his staff out of what they consider an unsafe building. Willden told lawmakers that, with their permission, his staff could be relocated to three available office buildings in the Carson City area by the first of the year.
He cited an engineering report that says the building is safe for now but could collapse in a major quake.
"We need to get out of here now," said one upset worker after the 4.2 quake shook the six-story building a block east of the Capitol.
John Anderson, head of the UNR Seismology lab, said the quakes were centered about 12 miles east of Carson City, nine miles south of Dayton. The 4.2 quake was preceded by a quake measuring 2.6 on the Richter Scale and followed by two smaller quakes measuring 1.5. All four occurred in a 40 minute period beginning just after workers arrived at 8 a.m.
Another worker said a number of employees immediately left the building. But, she said, a deputy agency head came outside and told them to return saying they weren't allowed to evacuate without permission and that the time outside the building would be counted as their morning break.
She said she was so upset she wanted to just go home.
By midmorning, however, Willden was making the rounds of his different agencies trying to calm everyone down. He said there was "not the best communications this morning" but that what the deputy was attempting to say was that the experts don't want everyone just running for the exits when a quake hits.
"When an event is occurring, they don't want everyone running out. The experts want us to get away from the glass and away from objects that can fall. So they say wait until you're told to evacuate."
He said, however, he fully understands the reaction of some workers. He said more training for emergencies will be offered next week.
In the meantime, he said, engineers went through the building again after the quakes to see if there was any new damage. He said they told him there was no serious damage from the latest event.
Willden said he'll ask lawmakers in November to authorize moving 350 employees out of the Kinkead Building into leased space until a new office building to house human resources is constructed next to the new Conservation and Natural Resources Building on South Stewart Street. That building could be ready by 2010.
Lawmakers agreed Thursday that new building should be a top priority for the 2007 Legislature and indicated they would try find a way to move Human Resources out of Kinkead until then.
--Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.