Quake drill rolls with some bumps

Oct. 8, 2010, 3:04 a.m.

The earthquake evacuation drill on Thursday morning conducted by the Office of Emergency Management came and went peacefully for most. For others, however, it didn’t happen at all.

According to a school-wide e-mail from Greg Boardman, vice provost for Student Affairs, the AlertSU outdoor sirens were to “sound for 45 seconds to signal the beginning of the exercise” yesterday. At 10:05 a.m., sirens began going off—but on some parts of campus they were barely audible and, to some, underwhelming. The high-pitched tone had to compete with sounds of traffic and planes overhead, and stopped after less than a minute.

“It stopped ringing so fast, it was like, did that just happen?” said Julia Ko ’13. “The sound needs to be louder.”

Nick Isaacs ‘12 didn’t even hear the alarm in his Spanish 1A class. “We were singing a song about Spanish verbs to the tune of ‘La Cucaracha,’” he said. “We did not hear the sirens.”

It wasn’t until a student read the AlertSU text message that Isaacs’ class realized they should evacuate the building.

Keith Perry, campus emergency manager, was not ready to give an immediate assessment of the drill on Thursday. For students reflecting on the drill, some don’t remember much—they simply slept through the sirens, which were quieter than the sirens typically used inside dorms for fire drills.

Those who did hear the sirens in classrooms near the Quad began leaving the buildings immediately, around 10:06 a.m., only to experience another glitch.

According to the protocol, students, faculty and staff were supposed to go to their nearest Emergency Assembly Point (EAP) and check in. But most people seemed unsure where to go, bemusedly milling around and following the crowd.

“I was looking around for a congregation point,” said Ava Lindstrom ’14, who joined the group clustered outside Green Library. “I think we should actually have a map with meeting points on it, to make it easier for everyone to figure out where to go.”

In fact, there are 115 EAPs on campus, and each building on campus has maps indicating where to go. However, as Lindstrom pointed out, those not in a building at the time of the drill might have difficulty figuring out where to go.

While the drill confused some, most participants believed it was a worthwhile exercise. “There are a lot of people from out of state who wouldn’t know what to do in an earthquake,” Lindstrom said. “So that’s valuable.”

Regina Roberts, a librarian at Green Library, agreed with Lindstrom. “Of course it’s a good idea,” she said. “At least the people who work in Green now know where our emergency meeting point is.”

At Memorial Church, the staff reflected on a different issue.

“Our staff were able to exit the building quickly and effectively,” said Scotty McLennan of the Office for Religious Life. “What I am worried about is the fact that [University organist] Robert Huw Morgan tried to get the tourists out, and a lot of the tourists didn’t leave. So if we had a serious emergency, we would really have to work on getting the tourists out, and we think it was a linguistic issue—not all of them understand English.”

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