by Michael Anklin
An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter Scale two weeks ago reminded Southern Californians of the constant threat looming over their heads — or rather, beneath their feet.
The city and the University of La Verne were not spared when considerable shaking, which lasted for about 30 seconds at about 2:45 a.m., woke people up and had some looking for cover.
Because the epicenter was located north of Joshua Tree in a largely unpopulated area, the damage done in the region was limited.
Nevertheless, La Verne is not too far away from the infamous San Andreas Fault, which runs from Mexico to Northern California and is located just beyond the San Gabriel Mountain range.
“Our section of that fault moves about every 145 years or so,” said Captain Don Johnson of the La Verne Fire Department. “It was about 145 years ago that it moved. So we are within that window.” A movement of the fault might cause an 8.0 or stronger quake. However, since these estimates are based on the average occurrence of movement in the fault, it may not move for another 50 or 100 years.
Moreover, according to Capt. Johnson, among whose responsibilities it is to help coordinate emergency preparedness for the city and the community, the majority of the the structures in La Verne are built safely and the soil they are built on is an advantage in an earthquake.
“Our soil looks like it is going to be pretty good; a lot of bedrock and our water table is pretty low,” said Johnson. Because of these conditions, the ground in La Verne is expected to shake less than in other surrounding areas.
In the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan entire buildings collapsed and their inhabitants were buried under tons of rubble and dirt. Multiple-story structures crumbled and fell like card houses. The question arises how the ULV is prepared for earthquakes of the same magnitude.
“I’m comfortable with the level of preparedness we have,” said Director of Facilities Management Brian Worley.
Buildings on campus were built or have been updated to meet earthquake safety standards set by the state of California, according to Worley. Miller Hall and Founders Hall are the oldest buildings on campus. They had to be updated in the past.
Worley said, “Miller Hall was an unreenforced masonry building that we retrofitted about 12 years ago. We used cables to compress the concrete of the building.
“We also built in lateral bracing walls to give the building greater strength. That was probably the most dangerous building on campus and it’s been retrofitted.”
In 1926 Founders Hall was built according to the earthquake standards of that time. As these standards changed, Founders Hall had to be reevaluated.
Worley said a structural engineer found out “that the roof wasn’t correctly connected to the perimeter of the building.” Numerous mechanical connections were made, tying the roof to the building.
Currently Worley has a proposal up to investigate and repair cracks in Founders Hall.
While all the buildings on campus live up to the current earthquake standards, that does not mean that they are not going to collapse.
“One thing that people need to understand,” said Worley, “is all standards for construction are designed to cause the building to retain its integrity long enough for people to exit. It isn’t to make the building habitable after the quake.”
Worley said that the damage in an earthquake the same magnitude as the one in Turkey would be not as devastating. One of the reasons is that the buildings on campus are not more than three-story constructions. The major damage in Turkey and Taiwan was caused by collapsing multi-story buildings.
“Our major large buildings [Landis Academic Center and Wilson Library] were just built,” said Worley. “They’re steel buildings and were built to withstand major stress and strain.”
The safest structure on campus during an earthquake is the Student Center. “The tent structure just sways with the quake and would withstand it quite well,” said Worley.
The Operations and Maintenance Department is trained to react immediately after an earthquake. The campus has been divided into five sections. Whoever is on the scene first gets a section assigned. Equipped with a map of the sections, a gas detector and keys to the buildings, the Operations and Maintenance personnel are to inspect all the buildings in the sector immediately after an earthquake. After a minor quake, a brief inspection to find cracks in buildings and similar small damages might be sufficient. In a major earthquake, Worley’s personnel might have to look for people who need to be rescued from severely damaged buildings.
The disaster equipment is kept in so-called “disaster trailers” on campus.
“They are designed specifically for earthquakes and fire,” said Safety Specialist Jeff Boster. “That is probably the biggest threat we have here. For anything else like a bomb threat, outside people would come in.” The equipment is designed for earthquake search and rescue. “Our search and rescue team is staffed by the Operations Department,” said Boster. “The majority of them have been trained in light urban search and rescue.” The rescue teams are equipped with gas detectors, earthquake manuals, a variety of sledge hammers, emergency lighting, extra fire hoses, gloves and other equipment.” The trailers are stored in the storage container and are mobile. They can be hooked up to the Operation Maintenance vehicles.
Worley said, “We go through drills once or twice a year just to refresh our memories and update ourselves on our abilities to do all these things.”
While Worley’s main concern are the buildings on campus, as director of facilities management, he is a member of the Emergency Operations Team that has been established for the safety of the overall campus.
President Stephen Morgan has overall authority over the team. The executive vice president will be second in command. The dean of student affairs and the director of housing and residential life will make sure students, faculty and staff who are impacted by the event will have emergency housing and food available
As part of the committee, for every building a person volunteered to be a building leader. There are several building leaders per building to make sure somebody is available.
In the event of a big earthquake, all buildings are to be evacuated and the building leaders have to report to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which will be set up in the President’s Dining Room because it is considered one of the safest facilities on campus in terms of withstanding an earthquake.
Director of Campus Safety and Transportation John Lentz would manage the EOC.
“My responsibility is to be Emergency Operation Center director,” said Lentz. He said that because of his background in law enforcement and having dealt with emergency operations before, he was asked to be in charge of the EOC.
Lentz said when he first came to the campus three years ago, Director of Human Resources Oris Barber was trying to put together a group to get the campus ready for emergencies. Lentz took on the responsibility to coordinate the efforts.
“Those committees that had been put together by Oris originally had developed some programs and some portions of the manual,” said Lentz. “So I took them and combined them with other manuals that I had from some other areas and other locations and combined them into our manual.”
The manual has been evaluated by an expert in the field, who gave his blessing. Before issuing the manual, Lentz sent a copy to an insurance expert for evaluation. He is currently waiting for her blessing of the manual.
Besides stability and size, Lentz said a building housing an EOC has to have certain qualities.
“You need to look for access to electricity, access to emergency electricity, access to things like restrooms and, if necessary, food. So we felt with all the things combined that was the best place, plus it is in kind of a central place.”
A closet in the PDR has all the necessary equipment available: vests, pads, pencils, hard hats, phone lines and telephones for each section, a main base radio, computers and a television set.
There are electrical hook-ups for an emergency generator which is housed in the Operations and Maintenance storage container and which would be brought over and connected to the PDR. The generator and other equipment are not stored in a building because a facility might collapse. The storage container is much safer in that aspect.
Should emergency electricity not be available, the EOC would rely on newly acquired cell phones.
Walkie talkies on campus work off a repeater on the Wilson Library tower. Should that tower go down, the cellular phones could be used as a back up as well.
There are plans to add water, blankets and other equipment to the storage container. Lentz said he would like to acquire a large military style tent in case the PDR collapsed and the EOC would have to be set up outside.
“We feel pretty confident that our EOC is well equipped. We feel confident that we have the right location for it. We are confident that we have the right personnel for it.”
State law requires all public agencies to operate under a plan called the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) to ensure that all counties and communities handle emergencies the same way. That way, they can all work together if necessary. Even though ULV is not required by law to do the same thing, the University has set up its plan along the SEMS guidelines to be able to work with the outside world in a huge emergency.
“Our plan is that we are doing things the same way for example, as if the city was involved,” said Lentz.
In accordance with the SEMS guidelines, the EOC is divided into six different sections of responsibilities.
The management section headed by Lentz will oversee the EOC. There is going to be an operations section which will be responsible for coordinating University operations using the EOC Action Plan.
This plan will be developed by the planning and intelligence section in coordination with other sections based on the information planning and intelligence obtains.
There will be a logistics section responsible for providing equipment, personnel and material.
Major policy decisions and political press relations will be handled by a voluntary policy group, probably consisting of University administrators and Trustees.
Each section chief will have a telephone line available to oversee the operations of his section and to communicate with outside parties who are concerned with matters involving his section.
Lentz and Boster are also planning to work on the coordination of the building leaders and to organize drills, including evacuation drills for student housing as well as the whole campus. The long-term goal is to be able to evacuate all the buildings by radio communication. So far, it would have been done by runners sending information back and forth between the EOC and building leaders.
“Once the building leaders evacuate the buildings we come in and do a structural inspection,” said Boster. When a building is clear and no more aftershocks are expected, people are allowed back in.
Speakers are in the process of being set up in every building to have an emergency alarm system on the whole campus.
All the earthquake preparedness equipment was purchased through the contingency management budget.
“We’re just coming into the age or the position of where we’re feeling really comfortable with the direction that we’re taking,” said Lentz. “We’re getting there. If we have an 8.5 earthquake, who knows? We’re not going to say we’ll be up and running the next day. But I do think that we are as well prepared as anybody in a similar situation.”
The University has a mutual aid program with other schools to help each other out. ULV will also cooperate with the city of La Verne.
Capt. Johnson said, “All cities like our city, have what they call a disaster preparedness plan as mandated and kind of driven by the Office of Emergency Services, which is a state department. The plan covers a broad range of incidents.”
The city runs the operation from an EOC located at the La Verne Public Safety Building and divided into the same sections along SEMS guidelines.
“The police cars, our units and public works vehicles are all the eyes and the ears for the people making the decisions at the EOC,” said Capt. Johnson.
The ULV EOC would work closely with the city’s EOC. Capt. Johnson said that for example in the case of a train derailment on ULV property “we would assist each other in managing that. They would have all the resources available they needed.”
The cities have a mutual aid agreement too.
“If the city of La Verne is impacted we have all the resources from all the other cities that we can draw from to help us,” said Capt. Johnson.
“The problem arises when you have a large earthquake because it is not a localized event anymore. All the cities are affected. So that is when you have to start bringing in resources from Northern California or San Diego to come in and give us a hand.”
The city of La Verne offers public education classes for people who are interested in instructions on what to do in case a major earthquake hits.
“You need to have what you are going to need to get by on your own without police, fire, public works, water, gas and telephone,” said Johnson. “Because it is going to take a while for all our resources and our infrastructure to get back up and running.”
Because the departments would not be able to respond to every call that they get after a strong earthquake, they would do a so-called window survey.
“We drive by and look out of the windows of our vehicles and give an assessment of the area,” said Capt. Johnson. “All the city vehicles are going to drive through the city and prioritize so we can make best use of our resources. We’ll work from the most severe to the least severe.”
The strongest most recent earthquake was the Upland earthquake Feb. 28, 1990. It had its epicenter in the Upland/Claremont area. A wall of the building that now houses the Art Department collapsed. “We lost a number of chimneys in the community,” said Johnson. However, there were no fatalities or major injuries in La Verne.
In the case of numerous major injuries and fatalities in the area, ULV facilities could be used to help out.
“What would probably happen in a large event that has impacted a whole large area is that Pomona Valley Hospital would be [overwhelmed] and won’t be able to handle everybody,” said Capt. Johnson. “So we will be moving people to the University or Bonita High School, probably in an open field area and make that into a casualty area. Some of them will be treated, some of them will be moved on to available hospitals farther out.”
Victims could be airlifted out of Bracket Airport. Those who are not critical will be treated on-site.
Capt. Johnson said, “Generally you have to do a lot of that kind of stuff outside because of the aftershocks. They will be smaller than the original [earthquake] but they can still cause damage to the already damaged structures.”
The University would be able to help out in a medical emergency. Every building, including the PDR, has a first aid kit. Pillows and blankets could be obtained from the Housing Office. Medical equipment is available from the Athletic Department and Student Health Services. The director of student health services and the head athletic trainer are also part of the Emergency Operations Team.
“We’re prepared to respond and to initially assess the situation,” said Director of Student Health Services Cindy Denne. “We’re prepared to give emergency first aid. We’re prepared to use our supplies from the Health Center to take care of those emergencies and basic first aid measures. We’re not prepared for anything life threatening. We really depend on outside sources for life threatening situations.”
She said the Health Center would have access to a medical doctor.
“She would also come in and would help with the medical aid,” said Denne.
“We would also use other universities in our area if it was more isolated to our campus we would have physicians who would come from other places whether it would be the local hospital or a university.”
Another potential source of danger in a major earthquake are the laboratories of the Department of Natural Sciences. Gases and chemicals pose a potential threat in such a situation. Every laboratory has a central button which immediately shuts off all flammable gases.
Most hazardous chemicals are stored in a new chemical storage facility, which will contain the chemicals within the building. The facility includes an automatic fire extinguisher system.
“It is explosion-proof,” said Dr. Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry. From the standpoint that if there should be an explosion it will go through the ceiling and will not blow the building to bits and shower people with debris.” Retainers have been installed on the shelves to keep objects from falling. Most of the shelves are attached to the walls so they are not going to fall over.
“When you compare us with state schools, said Dr. Jones, “there is no comparison. We’ve made excellent progress. We’ve been cost-effectively sort of a leader in this regard.”