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Worst-case scenario

Imminent threat of Hayward Fault, which runs through campus, demands better emergency procedures, s

By The Advocate editorial board
On October 24, 2013

  • Down and out – Comet quarterback Royce Hughes sulks off the field after throwing an interception in Contra Costa College’s 33-7 loss to College of the Redwoods at home Saturday. The loss extended the Comets' losing streak to six games. Brett Abel / The Advocate

People across the disaster area rushed to help their friends, loved ones and even strangers injured in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which rocked Bay Area 24 years ago this month.
A sense of urgency and a list of explicit priorities were more than enough motivation. Sure, they had help from firefighters, police officers, military personnel and other civic services. But the fact remains that hordes of strangers, without hesitation, came together into one gigantic rescue effort with the sole purpose of helping their fellow humans.
If our communities can band together during a panic to save lives, then surely we can band together during relative serene moments to save lives by preparing for disaster.
Although the 25-mile long rupture along the San Andreas Fault happened in the Santa Cruz Mountains, perhaps the most drastic effects of the 1989 quake were felt far away in San Francisco's Marina District and on Oakland's Interstate 880. This calls to attention the effect of soil conditions and the strength of building foundations.
A major earthquake is likely to occur on the Hayward Fault within the next 25 years and it is likely to be even more severe than Loma Prieta, Contra Costa College geography professor Chris Johnson said.
Unfortunately for Contra Costa College, the Hayward Fault, regarded by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute as the most dangerous fault in the nation, runs right through campus.
The college was essentially unharmed in 1989, mostly because the earthquake erupted on the San Andreas Fault. But when a major quake hits the Hayward Fault, the college probably won't be so lucky.
Campus emergency procedures exist but aren't being communicated regularly to students or staff. Emergency supply cabinets are not regularly stocked and plans for retrofitting many buildings have been delayed or put on hold.
In tough economic times this would be more understandable if college and district officials were trying harder to improve campus safety. But even the actions taken with earthquake safety in mind seem to appear half-hearted. Fliers have been posted around the college informing students of what to do if there is an emergency, but nothing more has been done to relay information about safety procedures to people on campus.
Emergency supply cabinets located throughout campus should be stocked with supplies necessary to survive a disaster. Currently, however, most of these cabinets contain some food and water items, but many of them are expired or in short stock.
The Library, Liberal Arts and Music buildings have undergone seismic retrofitting projects. But other structures on campus in need of such work, such as the Physical Sciences, Biology and Art buildings and the Gymnasium that hosts many high school and college sporting events, remain neglected as plans for retrofitting continue to be delayed.
In fairness, the projected cost of retrofitting the Biology Building alone is more than $640,000.
But by not addressing all of these areas and working together to improve them, student, staff and faculty safety is being neglected.
United Faculty Vice President Jeffery Michels accurately summed up CCC's present outlook on natural disaster safety.
"You don't realize you need emergency supplies until there's an emergency."
Sadly, this may be the legacy of current district and college administrators should the Hayward Fault rupture. 

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