Pierce College falters on Great California Shakeout

While 123 colleges and universities in Southern California participated in the Great California ShakeOut last Thursday, the drill was not properly executed at Pierce College.

The Great California ShakeOut is an annual emergency evacuation system meant to reinforce the safe procedural behaviors that should be adhered to during an earthquake. The drill was set to take place on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 10:20 a.m.

Director of College Facilities Paul Nieman sent emails to faculty and staff on Oct. 17, informing them of the drill. The email included safety procedures such as drop, cover and hold, and reminders to remain calm. Nieman also instructed professors to notify students so that they would be aware of the ShakeOut drill.

The official website, shakeout.org, suggests that colleges include the drill in a master calendar and website so that everyone is informed well ahead of time. Although Nieman’s email was sent to all faculty and staff regarding the topic and insisted that teachers inform their students, most were left in the dark.

The ShakeOut website also recommends that colleges organize meetings with the school’s safety committee to create a PA system, which Pierce College did not do this year.

According to Director of the Health Center Beth Benne, the college usually organizes an evacuation plan and goes over what to do in an emergency, but that was not properly organized this year.

“There was nothing really planned. In the past, Larry has called a meeting for the building evacuators the day of. I’m a building evacuator. We have a couple more in the building and then we have our emergency backpacks and we take all that, but we didn’t do that,” Benne said. “It’s frustrating. I wasn’t told anything that was happening specifically on this campus.”

Faculty and students were uninformed about the evacuation and that led to unanswered questions on what to do when an emergency occurs on campus.

Associate vice president Larry Kraus and director of facilities Paul Nieman both declined to comment.

According to Pierce College’s booklet on emergency preparedness and procedures, the dangers and risks of earthquakes can be significantly reduced if you know what actions to take before, during and after an earthquake.

According to the booklet, while indoors, remain calm, and take cover away from windows and other falling debris. Evacuate the building in the event that it is determined unsafe to remain inside.

When outdoors, remain calm, direct students to walk away from buildings, trees, poles and exposed wires. Remain in the open until the earthquake is over or until further directions are given. Render first aid to the injured. Report the names and locations of injured persons to the Sheriff Department.

Pierce College student Katherine Orellana wasn’t aware about the evacuation and is concerned that she won’t know what to do in an emergency.

“I know we did that in high school, but I thought no colleges do that; like, they just expect you to know what to do. Everyone’s kind of for themselves here, I guess,” Orellana said. “In times of panic, people don’t really know what to do.”

Not only was there a lack of preparation for the drill, there was also a lack of resources. The library, as well as most other buildings on campus, does not have a PA system, which made it difficult to instruct students on what to do in an emergency.

According to Pierce College librarian Lisa Valdez, the library does not have a proper evacuation system and said that last year it took them over fifteen minutes to notify students inside the library to evacuate.

“The way that the library is designed, there’s no way that we can communicate that to all the students on the other side of the library, in the back of the library, in the study rooms and in the classroom. There’s no type of notification system,” Valdez said. “We need to work on that.”

According to Deputy Alvaro Barreras, he was not aware of any further plan of action pertaining to the earthquake drill.

For more information on what to do during an emergency, visit http://www.shakeout.org. For on campus emergencies, contact the Sheriff’s Department at 818-710-4311.