Widgets Magazine

New earthquake drill to shake up campus

If an earthquake struck at Stanford tomorrow, would you know what to do?

If not, you’ll have a chance to practice during a campus-wide earthquake evacuation drill on Oct. 7.

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is organizing the drill at the request of Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 and President John Hennessy to teach students, staff and faculty what to do in case of a major earthquake.

While the University has previously conducted drills to test the school’s ability to triage information and organize a response, this will be the first drill focused on residents and campus employees.

“We really want to get people to become more aware of the appropriate response,” said Keith Perry, emergency manager. “They need to know what their personal role is.”

The upcoming exercise will begin with the outdoor warning system — seven sirens — going off simultaneously. Perry said the start time is not specified because “emergencies never arrive on schedule.”

The AlertSU system will also send a text message to all students, staff and faculty.

Everyone will then be expected to duck, cover and hold on to something until the sirens stop, then evacuate whichever building they are in and head to the nearest emergency assembly point (EAP).

Campus currently has 115 assembly points, which can be found on the emergency evacuation maps in every residence and building. The locations are also marked by gray posts with the symbol of a blue triangle in a white circle. Once students arrive at the assembly points, they should check in with faculty, instructors or residence staff there.

Perry suggested that students locate the assembly point nearest to their dorms and classes so they know where to go instantly in case of an emergency.

Accounting for every person on campus is the difficult aspect. Besides the University’s 16,000 students, there are also thousands of faculty and staff. In hopes of counting how many participate, the OEM is trying a new program that will send an automated phone call through the AlertSU system to everyone after the evacuation.

“They’ll be asked to press one, two or three [in response to] the question,” Perry said. “They really need to listen to that phone call. If they don’t respond, we won’t be able to log the fact that they’ve checked in.”

Of course, there is no way to account for every single person, especially within the half-hour time slot scheduled for the drill. However, Perry believes the exercise will give the OEM a baseline percentage to work with so officials can improve the system.

While students may feel silly ducking, covering and holding with a class of students during the drill, Perry stressed that the exercise was for their benefit.

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have an earthquake,” he said. “It’s a question of when we’re going to have an earthquake. We know we will experience large earthquakes in the Bay Area in the future.”

Bay Area native Chad Meirose ’11 said that the drill was “nothing out of the ordinary” for him, as he has done many similar drills before.

“If many students aren’t aware of how to do it, [this drill] might be necessary,” he said. “But I think a handout with pictures would suffice.”

However, some students appreciate the chance to rehearse an earthquake scenario.

“In the event of an actual serious earthquake on campus,” said Grove residential assistant Bob Clark ’11, “I think we’ll all be glad that everyone has had a chance to do a test run.”