Founders Day Highlights Emergency Preparedness

Immigration and emergency preparedness were at the center of Pomona College’s Founders Day celebration this year, which the college held Oct. 14 to commemorate its 126th anniversary. 

Every year, administrators select a theme to highlight some facets of life at Pomona. Past celebrations have featured the Career Development Office and the Draper Center for Community Partnerships. 

“A focus on immigration as an issue of national significance and its connections to public engagement and our community also seemed a good highlight for this year,” Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum said.

To explore the theme of immigration, the college hosted a panel discussion entitled “Current Immigration Reform: Prospects, Pitfalls and Can Reform Still Pass in 2013?” Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles Angelica Salas and Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Randy Johnson were the panelists. Chai Feldblum, one of five commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Dean Feldblum’s sister, moderated the discussion.

“The focus of the panel was to bring together individuals from different constituencies—business and immigrant rights in this case—who have been at the center of the national politics and legislative negotiations to try to get reform passed, so that students can really delve behind the scenes and understand the complexities of the issues, as well as the importance of reaching across political lines,” Dean Feldblum said. 

“This is not the first time that the college has addressed the issue of immigration; President [David] Oxtoby talked about it in a graduation speech several years ago,” said Eric Martinez PO ’14, who helped publicize the panel. “But I think that this is the most powerful effort that Pomona has made toward addressing a topic that has both national significance and personal importance for students at the Claremont Colleges.”

Martinez worked on publicity for the panel, creating flyers and the events’ facebook profile. He is also Co-Founder of Improving Dreams Equality Access and Success (IDEAS) at the Claremont Colleges, an organization that works to promote the education of immigrant students on campus.

The college’s choice of emergency preparedness as a second theme reflects its awareness of a potential major earthquake in Southern California.

“October is Emergency Preparedness Month, and since we were also preparing for the statewide earthquake drill…highlighting emergency preparedness seemed appropriate,” Feldblum said.

“In the last week alone, 845 earthquakes occurred in California and Nevada combined,” said Linda Reinen, an associate professor of geology at Pomona who specializes in geological hazards. “Given our understanding of how fault systems work, we expect that another major earthquake will occur on the San Andreas Fault.” 

“A major earthquake is inevitable, and it will be a regional disaster,” she added.

Pomona, along with the other Claremont Colleges, participated in the statewide Oct. 17 Great Southern California ShakeOut Drill, which is based on scientific predictions of what would occur during and after a high-magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas Fault.

As part of the preparedness theme, Assistant Director of the Smith Campus Center Ellie Ash-Balá, along with other coordinators, distributed emergency flashlights at the Founders Day celebration for students to include in their “go-bags.” The bags are frequently distributed at other events, and administrators urge students to keep them packed with a flashlight, water, eyeglasses, food, and other supplies.

“Preparation is essential, and I would encourage everyone to put together an earthquake emergency kit,” Reinen said. “Some good sources include the Earthquake Country Allegiance, Red Cross, and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency].” 

Many students are aware of the risk of earthquakes.

“We live in a huge earthquake-prone metropolitan area with basically no water,” Lucas Tamminen PO ’15 said. “I just hope I’m outside when it happens, with a full water bottle.”

Pomona offers students the opportunity to become trained emergency responders through PE 092, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification course. CERT members can assist others in an emergency when professional responders are not immediately available.

Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, who heads Pomona’s CERT program, also requires resident advisers and some administrators to receive CERT training.

“It’s comforting to know, as a person who comes from Chicago where there are very occasionally small earthquakes, that there is a group of administrators, RAs, and on-campus organizations that are trained to be able to deal with the emergencies of an earthquake,” said Giselle Fierro PO ’14, Associated Students of Pomona College Vice President for Campus Activities and a former RA.

“Quality training to handle earthquakes is an essential part of campus if we want to be able to respond in an effective manner that will allow us to have the confidence to help the community in whatever way that may be necessary,” Fierro said.

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