5Cs Plan for Overdue Earthquake

(Katie Erickson • The Student Life)

In the aftermath of the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in central Mexico, which left more than 300 dead, the risk of a major earthquake seems more severe than ever.

Earthquakes are always a worry for California residents, and concern has risen noticeably among 5C students about the state’s overdue seismic event.

Director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth acknowledged that “earthquake preparedness and awareness will always be a concern among California residents,” but said the 5Cs have more than adequate measures in place to respond to any type of crisis.

“It is up to each college to determine how to best prepare their campus community,” he wrote in an email to TSL, but the Claremont University Consortium does “coordinate disaster operations between the colleges.”

This includes the newly-hired emergency services manager Douglas Quisenberry, whom Skipworth said has been “meeting with representatives from the colleges to help them identify appropriate training tools and resources.”

Bob Robinson, assistant vice president of facilities and campus services at Pomona College, elaborated on the precautionary measures in place at the 5Cs.

“We have an emergency response team that aligns its program to that of the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” he said. “The group meets every two weeks and is constantly monitoring emergency situations around the world, and specifically in Southern California.”

Additionally, all colleges have individualized trained personnel in place. Robinson said Pomona employs a Disaster Assistance Response Team and Special Task and Rescue Squad. DART members are placed strategically in each residence hall, while STARS consists of faculty and student leaders who specialize in search and rescue.

Pitzer College spokeswoman Anna Chang wrote in an email to TSL that the “Emergency Preparedness Committee, which includes key members of Campus Safety, meets regularly to discuss and plan various practical safety measures, educational programs and training.”

Scripps College has a similar Emergency Readiness Committee, as well as a Core Emergency Response Team, and Claremont McKenna College has a number of prevention programs, including the safety committee.

At Harvey Mudd College, the Campus Emergency Response Team consists of the Damage Assessment Team, Search and Rescue Team, Medical Team, Communication and Radio Disaster Team, and Incident Management Team.

In the case of evacuations, all 5Cs have support staff who are accountable for each student, in the form of residential advisers or specific building coordinators and department monitors. These teams are on duty not only for earthquakes but also for any type of emergency or natural disaster.

Student representatives are available to help as well. John Ernst PO ’18, an RA in Wig Hall, recalled that the administration “gave us a big binder before training” that was “full of information.”

However, he added that student knowledge seems to be at a bare minimum, and people may be uneducated about emergency procedures even though there are resources and contingency plans in place.

Anna Hall PZ ‘18, an RA at Pitzer, had similar concerns about her training.

“I received no earthquake-specific training,” Hall wrote in an email to TSL. “We were simply told that the evacuation procedure for any natural disaster is the same as that for a fire.”

At CMC, Ken Eppinger, director of facilities and campus services, said Roberts Pavilion is the No.1 emergency evacuation center. He said mats and cots are available in the arena floor, and there are backup plans in case water service is lost.

For instance, he said, there are provisions in place to convert pool water for drinking, and backup generators for power. Eppinger estimates that CMC would have close to five days of food and water in an emergency.

Facilities and supplies are monitored regularly. Chang said Pitzer has been refreshing and increasing stocks, and wrote that “in 2013 the College invested $125,000 in expanding our emergency supplies.”

Pomona has developed long-term plans for the worst-case scenario: when evacuation sites are unaccessible.

“In the event of a catastrophic earthquake, if all of our residence halls were destroyed, we would create temporary shelters on campus with the extensive supplies that we have until such point that we could move students to off-campus shelters or until buildings became habitable again,” wrote Frank Bedoya, Pomona’s director of housing and operations, in an email to TSL.

He said the campus has 2,300 shelter kits with basic necessities such as blankets, pocket knives, and flashlights, as the assumption is that colleges will be alone for at least three days before government aid arrives.

Despite the differences in emergency programs from each school, Eppinger said the 5Cs are making more of an effort to coordinate and share information and resources. He said CMC hosts cross-training sessions that other staff are welcome to attend, adding that there’s a new initiative to share building plans between colleges.

Even with the adminstrations’ comprehensive programs, CUC is “a strong proponent of individual preparedness and planning,” Skipworth said. Both Skipworth and Robinson encouraged students to visit resources available online, such as government brochures, individual school procedures, and the LiveSafe app.

Additionally, all colleges will be participating in the Great California Shakeout earthquake drill on Oct. 19, held in coordination with local and state agencies.

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