We sure do depend on electricity around here.
Monday’s power outage– caused by a blown transformer way down on Ventura Boulevard– struck the campus between classes and only lasted an hour.
During that hour, one thing became evident– we have some holes to plug in our emergency response capability.
Monday’s power failure wasn’t an “According to Hoyle” emergency situation, and Pierce College President Kathleen Burke-Kelly made the decision not to declare an official emergency after conferring with Plant Facilities Director Paul Nieman.
That may have been the right call.
After all, it wasn’t a “real” emergency; and it’s a good thing, too.
But then again, it could have been real, and we weren’t ready.
That constitutes an emergency.
No? Consider this:
When the power died, so did the phones.
All the phones.
In the Admissions and Records office, steel security gates kicked in to keep the sensitive information safe.
It separates that entire area from the rest of Student Services.
There’s nothing quite like panicked claustrophobia to really bring out the calmness in a crowd of recently trapped people.
Interoffice communications went down immediately, creating a virtual blindness throughout the campus.
Automatic emails that would have gone out to students, faculty and staff would never have gone out, so our mass communication capabilities practically fizzled out before they could even be activated.
The sheriff’s station had power, but with phones down across campus, who was going to call?
With no electricity, the precious few security cameras around campus also died.
One blown transformer brought this campus to its knees.
Luckily, our security officers were already on the ball implementing protocols of their own.
Then the lights came back on and most everyone forgot about it.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
However, if this had been one of those proper, ground-pounding, shingle-shaking earthquakes we’re expecting at any time, there could have been casualties.
If a fire had engulfed the Mall, or if zombies had stumbled out of the Center for the Sciences(who knows what they’re up to in there?) we’d have been in real trouble.
There is an emergency plan on the books, but our campus deserves more than just a theoretical plan in a binder on a shelf.
This administration could coordinate some live training exercises that allow all campus agencies to practice for any emergency.
This training could greatly increase not only faculty response times in the event of a real-world scenario, but also increase student awareness about the programs in place to protect them.
Remember what a big event this year’s Great California Shakeout was on campus?
It was the statewide program on Oct. 18, designed to instruct folks on how to operate during a major earthquake.
No, you don’t remember.
Elementary students participated. Middle and high schoolers did, too.
Whatever Pierce administration did to promote this event apparently didn’t blip on anyone’s radar.
The more prepared the campus is, the better.
With Monday’s non-emergency shedding light on a few things to fix, we could streamline our plan to address these issues and really be ready if the time comes.
The administration could use the next “non-emergency” situation to implement some changes, allowing staff and faculty the opportunity to train towards a real understanding of what it means to be ready.