By Corey Kleinsasser
For most students living in California, earthquakes are just a fact of life. Many, however, aren’t aware of the safety precautions and procedures their universities take to ensure their safety.
Part of the Cal Poly Pomona campus is on the San Jose faultline, which runs through the 10 Freeway and ends just north of University Drive.
This location on the fault not only makes construction tricky, but could put the university into a state of emergency in the event of a large earthquake.
CPP buildings are safe to occupy and all up to code, but facilities that were built in the early days of the university require retrofitting to reinforce the structures.
“The seismic review board did a study a while ago and started identifying buildings that needed to be seismically retrofitted,” said Walter Marquez, CPP’s associate vice president for facilities, planning and management. “We have a few of those on our campus.”
Buildings 1, 3, 5, 9, 13, and the CLA Building are among the structures that needed to be addressed with seismic reinforcement.
“The CSU looks at this collectively as a whole [and] make a request for funding,” said Marquez. “Funding for retrofits or new academic buildings typically come from the state.”
The retrofitted buildings with the seismic joints did their part when an unexpected quake happened a few years ago.
“In the event of an earthquake of a significant magnitude, damage is minimized,” said Marquez. “If there is an earthquake of a specific magnitude, it’s going to do damage regardless of building codes, seismic codes or any other element,”
For construction of new facilities, there are strict building codes so they do not have to be retrofitted later.
The university does have emergency plans in the event of a large-scale earthquake. Emergency Services Coordinator Debbi McFall makes sure those plans are up to date.
“I built a structure of emergency teams,” said McFall. “I don’t have an emergency coordinator in every single building, but I have 25 emergency coordinators and every building is assigned to one of those 25.”
If necessary, those coordinators orchestrate evacuations. If there were an earthquake, they would do damage assessment.
“They would coordinate the shelter in place,” said McFall. “They coordinate all the education, because I go and do as much training as I can with them.”
University Police officers are also trained in taking damage assessments.
“They will stop answering to calls and will go to a predetermined list of where our high priorities are, and they’ll evaluate them at the same time the people inside the buildings,” said McFall.
McFall also trains students that live in the dorms.
“I do drills in the housing population, daytime and nighttime, the Children’s Center and iPoly High School,” said McFall. “I try and do them whenever there’s a little bit of lag time, so that the people who are here will be [who] the students will turn to for assistance [and they] will have the training to respond. I feel like they could handle just about anything.”
McFall cannot always train all faculty and staff, but hopes that everyone will be ready in a crisis situation.
“This is a learn-by-doing institution, and to assume that the world is going to take care of you in an earthquake is really missing the boat,” said McFall. “In an emergency it’s really empowering to have done some planning for yourself.”
Terry Cheiffetz, a second-year graduate geophysics student, believes that students, staff and others living in the area are not ready for a large-scale earthquake because they have not been exposed to one in recent years.
“Our age group has been in a period of reduced seismicity since the Northridge earthquake in 1994,” said Cheiffetz.
“Basically, we have college-aged students that don’t have any remembrance of $20 billion in damage and 100 people perishing.
“You start to relax and get [back] into your routine. Nobody has bottled water or an emergency plan for an event like that with a moderate magnitude, let alone a devastating earthquake.”
Cheiffetz chose his field of study not only because he enjoys it, but because he wants to be a mediator to those that are unfamiliar with the subject.
“I just want to let people know and be a liason to be able to describe things to people on their level so they can understand what’s going on,” said Cheiffetz.
Jairo Pineda / The Poly Post
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