What Would You Do in the Worst-Case Scenario?

Students at Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College and Scripps College participated in the Great California ShakeOut the morning of Oct. 18, joining about nine million other people in the annual statewide earthquake drill. Upon receiving notification calls, e-mails and text messages from their schools, students practiced ducking and covering and then went outside to be checked in by resident advisors or building coordinators.

Despite the size and coordination of the drill, not all students were impressed, and not all participated.

Some professors continued to lecture, so their students did not practice duck-and-cover procedures. Other students slept through the drill. Meanwhile, students at Harvey Mudd College and Pitzer College did not participate in the drill at all.

Across the 5Cs, some students said that there were problems with emergency procedures drills such as the Great ShakeOut.

“I don’t feel like the drill was very serious,” John Russell PO ’13 said. “Professors weren’t taking it seriously.”

“Some people just slept through it,” Vicky Yang CM ’15 said. “Whenever they say it’s a drill, no one really pays attention to it.”

This is a problem for both earthquake and fire drills, students said. Kelsey Schuetz PO ’14 said that there is an additional difficulty with earthquake drills.

“It’s hard with an earthquake because you can’t create one out of nowhere. You can’t have a practice earthquake,” she said. “At least with a fire drill, an alarm goes off and you try to get away from it.”

However, not all students think it is a problem that students do not take the drills seriously.

“We’re college kids and we’re a little silly,” Nidhi Gandhi PO ’15 said. “I think that what [the colleges] have tried to do and what they’ve done so far is enough.”

Alex Washburn SC ’15 and Mabelle Bong SC ’15 said that drills at Scripps are effective. According to Washburn, students must line up by residence hall to make sure everyone is accounted for.

“Scripps is pretty thorough about it,” Bong said. Bong, who works at the Sallie Tiernan Field House, also helped ensure that students at the Field House participated in the Great ShakeOut.

Camille Reisfeld PZ ’16 participated, but only because she was attending class at CMC at the time of the drill.

“I was the one who didn’t get the e-mail,” said Reisfeld, referring to how CMC students in the class received e-mail notifications from the school, whereas Pitzer students did not.

“I thought the one at CMC that we had was supposed to be a drill for everyone, but apparently not,” she added. She said she thought that it would be beneficial if all the 5Cs participated in coordinated drills and had a unified communication system. HMC also did not participate in the Great ShakeOut, although it has in the past.

“We’re looking into bringing it back,” said Melonee Cruse, Emergency Preparedness and Safety Coordinator for HMC. The school will hold an earthquake drill in April.

However, Emma Gross PZ ’13 suggested that the schools are better off holding earthquake drills at the beginning of the semester so that new students can learn procedures, which would be especially helpful for those who have never encountered earthquakes before.

“I think it’d be nice to at least know, especially for people not from California,” Angeline Cai HM ’16 said.

But not all students think that drills are the most important part of emergency preparedness. Scott Nakanoto PZ ’14 said that the schools should focus more on assembling supplies such as food and water.

“The biggest thing we should do is start preparing kits,” he said.

Alex Kellogg PO ’15 added, “Say some building structurally collapsed. Just having those materials … could be the difference between life and death.”

Students also suggested that the schools could make more information about procedures available.

“I don’t feel like anyone’s well-versed in actual earthquake procedures,” Schuetz said. “It would be helpful if they distributed information.”

Yang agreed.

“Personally, I wasn’t exposed to any education,” she said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”

“It’s probably something that’s out there; I just didn’t catch it,” she added. She said that it would help if the colleges sent out e-mails with concise information and images.

Most students said that of all natural disasters, earthquakes are their biggest concern.

Nakanoto spoke of the “Big One,” the colossal California earthquake that most scientists think may strike anytime within the next 30 years. The quake is most likely to hit the southern end of the San Andreas Fault.

Nakanoto said that when he first started hearing about it four years ago, most predictions said the earthquake would come within the next 10 years.

“That’s the one I’m most worried about,” he said. “It’s definitely very relevant.”

“It’s supposed to happen,” Alex Rich HM ’16 added. “It’s past time.”

But while students acknowledge the threat, most are not overly worried by it.

“If it happens, it happens,” Koffi Koussi CM ’13 said.

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