Shaky Earthquake Drill Shows Limited Participation

Each year, student apathy toward emergency drills is on full display during the Great Southern California ShakeOut drill held at the Claremont Colleges. At Pomona College, the administration has attempted to increase participation in the drill by involving more students, such as RAs and Outdoor Adventure (OA) leaders, but participation at this year’s drill Oct. 16 remained limited.  

The ShakeOut Drill began in 2008 for the state of California. Pomona has participated in the drill every year since, but in this year’s iteration of the drill, not a single student evacuated their building on North Campus. 

“It was zero—that was the count,” Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes said. 

Townes noted that many students were likely not in their rooms at the time of the drill due to classes, jobs and extracurricular activities. According to Townes, however, those who were in their dorms “didn’t move.”

Townes, who is in his 11th year as the dean of campus life, said that the procedures carried out during the ShakeOut drill, such as bringing a variety of student leaders to the Smith Campus Center to practice triage and message-running, are part of a larger Pomona initiative to become more aligned with the National Incident Management System approach.

He described that system, which was adopted by the state of California in 2005, as a “systematic, proactive approach” to “prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate the effects of incidents.”

Cortney Anderson PO ’15, an RA in Smiley, said that most RAs were unsure of their involvement in the drill. She said that student leaders were supposed to report to the Smith Campus Center and then receive a job at that time, such as performing triage, serving as a runner, getting supplies or taking notes. But there was some confusion about job delegation, she said.

“Other people were dismissed after 10 minutes; they didn’t see all of this going on over here,” Anderson said. “In the case of a real emergency, what would these students be doing? From what I understand, in the case of a drill … maybe it’s more realistic to be delegating responsibilities on the spot.”

Anderson said that more communication about why students in the drill were doing what they were doing, and what the drill was trying to accomplish, would help make the drill more streamlined and effective. 

“I know they do what they can with the resources that they have and the people that they have,” she said. “And there’s only so much you can prepare for.” 

Eliza Harris PO ’18 said that the drill occurred during her Spanish class, where students were “confused” and “didn’t go under the desks” for some time due to a faulty alarm. Later on in the day, Harris was in a geology class that talked about the drill, and “that was much more specific.”

Townes said that while many students do not take earthquake drills seriously, they allow at least some education for when a real disaster occurs. 

“In a real event,” he said, “People know, ‘Look the earth just moved, we should get outside where it’s safe.’”

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