Campus Prepares to Avert Safety Concerns During a Crisis

Diana Petras

Although most people walk around with a a sense of security, the recent fire outbreaks that occurred on campus in the last few months have inflicted a feeling of concern among students and faculty over how safe the school would be in a disaster.

Fires are one out of many possible disasters that could occur on campus. However, Southern California is known as “Earthquake Country” because it is the most common natural disaster that hits the region.

According to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center (SCEDC), the Los Angeles metropolitan area contains every kind of fault type that can be found.

The rude awakening Northridge earthquake in 1994 was caused by a blind thrust fault that “produced the strongest ground motions ever instrumentally recorded in an urban setting in North America. Damage was wide-spread, sections of major freeways collapsed, parking structures and office buildings collapsed, and numerous apartment buildings suffered irreparable damage,” the SCEDC said.

Director of Business Services Bill Taylor has been working at GCC for 32 years and said that the college did not sustain much damage from the Northridge earthquake. “[The buildings] sustained some surface cracks, but no structural damage,” he said. “We did not have to close any buildings down due to the earthquake.”

“All the building exceeds the codes in terms of structural integrity for things like earthquakes,” said Taylor. “They are required to be designed to meet the codes in terms of the construction of building them. I feel confident that our buildings would be safe.”

Nevertheless, first time GCC pharmaceutical student Nicole Beard said that she is unsure if the school is prepared if a disaster like the 1994 earthquake were to strike on campus. “I never thought of that before,” she said.

“I don’t see any earthquake or fire emergency kits or anything for students [or faculty] to use in an emergency,” said Beard. “If there were first aid kits in each classroom, I think that would
be helpful.”

However, Taylor said that the college has a disaster plan in place that is required by the state and it is administered by the campus police. “The campus is pretty well prepared for any natural disaster,” he said.

“I feel very safe on campus,” said Carmita Valiz, a registered nurse with health services. “Campus police officers are surveying the campus [for any disturbances].”

However, she said that safety in terms of natural disasters is an issue that the school is attempting to address big and small disasters with the Emergency Preparedness Plan that was implemented by the Safety Committee last summer.

The Safety Committee includes members from health services, campus police, administrators, and other departments last summer and they working on the Emergency Preparedness Plan because it is going to be the core to what the college will do for a majority of the emergencies.

According to Valiz, they are requesting supplies from the Red Cross in an effort to meet the needs of the separate departments. They are requesting things ranging from generators and first aid kits to canopies and evacuation chairs for the disabled.

“Requests [were brought] to show us what we could put in buildings as far as equipment and storage [for each department],” she said. “The Emergency Preparedness Plan is to coordinate efforts in natural disasters.”

For instance, if one building shuts from a blackout out it doesn’t mean that the entire school has to be shut down. “It all depends on that disaster,” said Valiz. “Whatever response we have to an emergency, it has to be smooth and coordinated.”

“It is best to remain calm in an emergency. We respond to everything here on campus, [but for natural disasters] we’re getting it from a big picture of terrorism to here [at GCC],” she said.

“We do what we can. We’re work at one level [getting the supplies] and it goes to the next, equipment then coordination at who goes to what building and how [the Emergency Preparedness Plan] is going to work.”

All policies and procedures in regards to natural disasters are managed by the campus police. For more information over any safety concerns, contact the GCC campus police at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5925 or Health Center at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5909. For any emergencies, dial (818) 240-1000, ext. 4000.