How the Claremont Colleges are preparing for major earthquakes

(Katie Erickson • The Student Life)

During the first major earthquake centered in Ridgecrest, California, this summer, people in Claremont nearly 130 miles away felt the ground shake.

Pomona College geology professor Nicole Moore was at home at the time and watched the liquid in her hummingbird feeder start to sway. She got underneath a table and waited it out.

“This is kinda cool,” she thought of the 6.4-magnitude earthquake. Moore teaches a class on geohazards after all.

The next day, another earthquake hit Ridgecrest, shaking Claremont again. That one was bigger and scarier.

“My reaction changed from excitement […] to fear,” Moore said of the more intense shaking that lasted longer than the day before’s.

The first earthquake had been a foreshock, leading up to the 7.1-magnitude main event, according to the United States Geological Survey. 

It injured five people and damaged over 50 homes, the USGS said. They estimate damages will cost more than $100 million.

Despite all that, the Claremont Colleges did not suffer any damage from the quakes, according to Stan Skipworth, Campus Safety director. 

But as students return to school, the 5Cs aren’t taking any chances. The likelihood of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hitting California by 2038 is 46 percent, according to the USGS. And it’s most likely to occur in Southern California.

As a result, the Claremont Colleges are preparing for the worst with emergency supplies and an upcoming worldwide earthquake drill.

Stocking up

Each 5C has its own stockpile of supplies.

Claremont McKenna College has the resources to house 1,200 people in tents with food, water and hygiene supplies for five days, CMC spokesperson Peter Hong said via email.

Pomona College has taken similar action.

They have enough food and water stored to take care of 2,000 people for five days, according to Bob Robinson, Pomona’s assistant vice president for facilities and campus services.

Scripps College officials said the school also has supplies on hand, specifically 55-gallon barrels of water and a portable water treatment system.

Additionally, they’ll be purchasing smaller containers of long-term, storage-stable water for individual use this year, Anjila Lebsock, Scripps’ safety operations specialist, said via email.

In terms of food, the school has calorie bars, canned food and freeze-dried food in stock in case of an emergency, Lebsock said. They could also utilize leftover food from their dining hall, she added.

Lesbock did not specify how much of each food the school has stored. How quickly the stockpile would diminish would depend on how many people were on campus at the time, she said.

Across the street, Pitzer College has also hatched a plan.

In 2012, Pitzer invested $125,000 in expanding its emergency supplies, according to Pitzer spokesperson Anna Chang. 

She did not share the amount of supplies, but said via email that they’re regularly updated.

Harvey Mudd College likewise maintains a stash of drinking water, food and first aid supplies, HMC spokesperson Judy Ausburger said via email. But it’s unclear how much of each.

The Great ShakeOut

This coming semester, as in previous years, students at the 5Cs will drop, cover and hold alongside millions of people across the globe during an international earthquake drill.

The simulation, called the Great ShakeOut, is scheduled for 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 17, according to its website. It takes place every year and aims to teach people how to stay safe during earthquakes.

If someone believes they’re experiencing one, they should drop to their hands and knees, take cover under a table or desk and hold on until the shaking stops, the Great ShakeOut’s website says.

While on the ground during the October drill, participants should look around and try to predict what would fall or be damaged during a major earthquake, the instructions say.

Afterward, schools have the option to practice what they’ll do once the shaking stops and have a discussion about what participants learned, according to the site.

In addition to taking part in the Great ShakeOut, Scripps will host an earthquake-themed scavenger hunt and personal preparedness session the day of the drill, Lebsock said.

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