Emergency procedures necessary
Campus expects better planning
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009 05:10
Residents of California know that the San Francisco Bay Area is a beautiful place to live, and undoubtedly, it also has a rich history of earthquake disaster that comes with the territory.
The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake was the last major destructive earthquake to shake the Bay Area. It is not a matter of if these unpredictable and inescapable disasters will happen again, but rather, when they will.
Contra Costa College lies on the active Hayward Fault. Though Loma Prieta left the campus mostly unscathed, there is no telling what may happen in the future, particularly if an earthquake were to happen on the Hayward Fault.
"The reality is, we live in a fault zone," said John Christensen, employment development services specialist and Student Services Center building monitor. "It's everyone's responsibility to know what to do in a disaster, but I don't think you can ever prepare enough."
Senior Dean of Students Frank Hernandez, who was employed with CCC during the earthquake, said college personnel are better trained now than they were before.
"It's not going to be perfect," Hernandez said. "However, we're never battle tested until it happens. It's just the nature of the beast."
Training is key
Since Loma Prieta, the college has made efforts to improve faculty and staff preparedness with emergency preparedness trainings.
College President McKinley Williams said that by nature of an emergency, it is impossible to be totally prepared because many unanticipated things could follow.
After an earthquake, for instance, in addition to nursing injuries, electrical damages might cause a fire, punctured pipes may be releasing gas and broken water mains may cause a flood.
Williams said that by completing training, the managers and other staff have learned ways to respond and take proper action during a crisis.
District Safety Coordinator Ted Terstegge manages the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course trainings, in which attendees learn response skills, such as first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, fire safety and disaster psychology.
Currently, there are 29 staff members and one student from CCC, Associated Student Union Senator Jim Gardner, who have completed training, Terstegge said.
The course is extended to all staff in the district, and though the list is usually full, those interested should contact him, he said.
Gardner said the training would be beneficial for students, and though they are not invited to take the course at CCC, they should seek offerings in the community.
Gardner is confident in the CERT team. He said the certified members are employed in a variety of college departments. Their wide range of expertise will help create a solid team during an emergency, he said.
The districtwide safety procedure plan is undergoing maintenance, Terstegge said, but should be online shortly.
"Generally, I would say, yes, (CCC) is prepared, but certainly, we can always do better. We're not as prepared as I'd like us to be but we're working on those areas," he said.
The campuswide procedures on the Safety Committee's Web site is an outdated version from 2006 and will be updated when the CCC's Web site redesign is completed, Safety Committee Chairwoman Mariles Magalong said.
Monitors take lead
Each building has at least one designated person responsible for being the eyes and ears during an emergency.
But currently, the team lacks cohesion because training or meetings within the group are not regularly scheduled.
"We could be standing here and an earthquake could hit," said Denine Colbert, athletic equipment manager and Women's Locker Room building monitor. "The Fitness Center has a lot of heavy equipment. If someone got hurt, how can we help them without a first aid kit, and how can we treat them if we do not have the training?
"We don't know any of those things. We need the hands-on training," she said.
These building monitors oversee their area and inform faculty and students about emergencies, such as ensuring that the building is completely evacuated and communicating with police dispatchers about the status of injuries after an earthquake.
Terstegge said a four-hour training program that began in January was created for the safety monitors. So far, half have completed the training, he said, and the next session will be held within the coming months.
Biological sciences professor Christopher Tarp said one reason why he was chosen as a building monitor for his department is because he has been teaching at the college awhile as a full-time professor, and is on campus a lot.
Time restraints make it difficult for building monitors to meet, but it must be somehow coordinated in the future, Dr. Tarp said, otherwise if an emergency does occur, there would only be chaos.
"Building monitors need to remain calm and cool as to not cause any panic," he said. "Preparing for this kind of thing is just as (much a) part of my job as teaching biology."
As a public institution, CCC is looked upon as a designated disaster relief center for neighboring communities.
Art department co-Chairman Erik Sanchez said that state employees, faculty and staff are obligated to stay and offer assistance during an emergency if they are physically able to do so.
For this purpose, Terstegge said the college stores an oasis unit.
"We have shelter materials for up to 100 first responders or workers," he said. "For example, if we had a big earthquake and we needed to have people housed at the college for several days, we would have the things needed."