Imminent threat of Hayward Fault running through campus demands better preparation procedures, suppl
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009 05:10
They weren't official. They weren't adequately trained. They weren't prepared with a plan. But they were usually the first on the scene.
Neighbors across the disaster area rushed to aid their comrades caught in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which rocked California exactly 20 years ago this Saturday. A sense of urgency and explicit priorities was all they needed.
Sure, they had help from firefighters, police officers, military personnel and other civic services. But the fact remains that hordes of strangers, without hesitation, coalesced into one rescue effort with the sole basis to help their fellow humans.
If our communities can band together during a panic to save lives, then surely we can band together during (relative) peace to save lives through preparation.
San Francisco and Oakland might be on their way to enacting the necessary changes made apparent by the temblor, but there is still much to be done at every level.
Instituting programs like Citizens of Oakland Respond to Emergencies (CORE) and organizing clearer systems for communication between different agencies is a great start. Yet, there are more areas to target than just the services that respond to the crisis.
Although the 25-mile long rupture along the fault was based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, perhaps the most drastic effects of the earthquake were felt in San Francisco's Marina District and Oakland's Interstate 880 Cypress Street Viaduct. This calls to attention the effect of soil conditions and how sturdy building foundations are just as important as reliable support agencies.
San Francisco tried to address this issue and pass a bill last year requiring retrofitting for soft-story buildings. City council voted it down.
Without measures like the above proposal, the next earthquake will be that much more devastating. Moreover, this upcoming natural disaster is likely to hit the Hayward Fault within 30 years and be even more severe than Loma Prieta, said Dr. David Schwartz, coordinator for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program for Northern California.
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 the campus.
The college was essentially unharmed in 1989, mostly because the earthquake erupted on the San Andreas Fault.
Given our lack of a definite college emergency procedure, consistent emergency supplies, full-time campus nurse and concrete plans for remodeling certain buildings in need of retrofits, we will probably not be so lucky next time.
This would be more understandable if college and district officials were trying harder to improve our safety. Yet, even the actions made with earthquake safety in mind come off halfhearted.
A new Campus Alert System, including sirens atop the Student Services Center, was instituted this semester, but little has been done to spread the word about its functionality other than a few fliers. The emergency supply cabinets have some food and water items, but many of them are expired or in short stock. Some structures like the Liberal Arts Building have undergone retrofitting, but other parts of the campus in need of modification, such as the Applied Arts and Music buildings, remain neglected with no current plans for change.
By not addressing all of the areas in need of attention and working together to improve them, we are being myopic and neglectful.
United Faculty President Jeffrey Michels accurately summed up CCC's present outlook on natural disaster safety.
"You don't really realize you need emergency supplies until there's an emergency," he said.
Let us hope that is not a premonition.