Emergency cabinets lack adequate supply
Disaster lockers missing needed materials, food
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 19:10
As history shows, the disaster supply cabinets on campus, meant to ensure campus occupants access to first aid materials, food and water for three days in case of a major disaster, have not been regularly maintained.
The idea of having emergency cabinets originated when a former professor’s son began the project as part of an Eagle Scouts mission in the early 1990s, former Safety Committee member and art professor Richard Akers said.
In recent years, the care of the cabinets has fallen off.
Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong, who also serves as Safety Committee chairperson, said Safety Committee member Darlene Poe is responsible for checking emergency equipment, medical supplies and replacing expired food in the cabinets at least once a year.
The cabinets, housed throughout the campus in the Applied Arts and Gym Annex buildings, the Early Learning, Student Services and Automotive Technology centers, the Gymnasium and Police Services, generally contain the same supplies, Poe said.
The Advocate observed six cabinets during the week of Oct. 14-18 in the Police Services, Student Services, Early Learning, Automotive Technology centers, and Liberal Arts and Art buildings.
The Physical Sciences Building and the Health Sciences Building had no supply cabinets.
In addition to finding inconsistent distribution of supplies, such as the Art Building cabinet having more supplies than the one housed in the Student Services Center, it was clear that the cabinets had not been replenished in some time.
The expiration dates on packaged goods found throughout the surveyed cabinets will notify potential disaster survivors that the cans of soup they expected for nourishment expired in August 2011 and their evaporated foods passed their prime back in November 2006.
Also, only a single 24-pack case of water, or less, was found in each cabinet.
Magalong said that although the Safety Committee would like to purchase pricier foods with substantially longer shelf lives than what are currently in the closets, it is necessary for the committee to operate within its means.
Some other supplies found in the cabinets included first aid kits, portable toilets, radios, extra batteries, blankets, water purifiers, basic medical supplies, flashlights, hygienic products, trash bags and caution and duct tape.
“In terms of first aid, what we have would be enough until help arrives,” Poe said. “If people are hurt, that is our priority.”
The supplies, however, varied from location to location.
For instance, cots for sleeping and a checklist of recommended inventory and inspection logs, though last dated Feb. 7, 2002, were found only in the Art Building. Dr. Akers said these things were put in place while he was the building monitor years ago.
One possible reason for the disparities is because these designated building monitors, who are volunteers, hold keys to these cabinets and can make individual maintenance decisions without the knowledge of the Safety Committee.
Previous Art Building monitor John Diestler said the art department made it a habit to consume foods when the expiration dates were near and someone would simply pay a few dollars out of pocket to replace them.
Diestler, former art professor and department chairperson, retired in June, but is still listed as the building monitor for the Art Building according to the latest Contra Costa College Procedures Handbook.
History professor and Liberal Arts Building monitor Manu Ampim said he was no longer a building monitor as of this academic year, but was unaware that he was still listed in the CCC Procedures Handbook as a monitor for the building.
The Advocate observed the Liberal Arts Building emergency disaster cabinet on Oct. 17, after Liberal Arts Division dean and Liberal Arts Building monitor Helen Kalkstein unlocked the emergency closet’s door.
The cabinet contained about a dozen chairs stacked on top of each other and two foldable tables on their sides.
Inside of the closet was another cabinet with a lock on it that, according to Kalkstein, she did not have the key for.
“I believe custodial services has this key,” she said.
English professor Jeffery Michels, while walking by the Liberal Arts Building cabinet, said, “Good to see we have a couple of tables and some chairs to set up if there’s ever an emergency.”