Five Years After Loma Prieta,We Are Better Prepared

by Mary Ellen Butler

The campus is now more ready than ever to respond to a major earth movement--especially when one occurs on the Hayward fault, a section of which runs along the east side of campus.

It was after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that then-Chancellor Heyman charged a campus task force with upgrading the University's ability to cope with the most likely disaster--a severe jolt--and to survive any other large emergency as well.

From the task force grew the Office of Emergency Preparedness, which in five years has overseen changes in both the ability of the physical plant to withstand a shock and in the operational procedures that will kick in when a big quake occurs.

"Among the first steps were to educate people and to organize a campuswide emergency-response plan," says Jill Finlayson, who runs the Office of Emergency Preparedness as part of her job as manager of the University Police Department's Community Programs.

Emergency Preparedness:

o Distributed campuswide an emergency information booklet explaining what to do in case of earthquake, fire, bomb threat, explosion, or hazardous-materials release.

o Put up signs and posters with the same instructions in every building on campus.

o Set up a telephone hotline--642-4335 -- to provide information during major campus emergencies.

o Divided the campus into eight "regions" and trained selected employees to become building coordinators within those regions and area coordinators of each region.

o Issued voice pagers and two-way radios to area coordinators so they can communicate with the UCPD Emergency Operations Center. The center is located inside the police department, but can also be set up in the Tang Health Center if Sproul Hall becomes unusable.

o Approved a two-unit, pass/no pass academic course in emergency preparedness, sponsored by the departments of Human Biodynamics, City and Regional Planning, Geology, and Architecture.

o Signed an agreement to enable UCSD to call up Berkeley's purchasing, payroll, and student records so Berkeley can continue functioning if its computers are temporarily knocked out.

Along with preparing people and procedures, the office also keeps track as campus buildings are reinforced to become more quake resistant. So far, 19 structures have been retrofitted, including heavily used Moffitt Library and Wheeler Hall.

Memorial Stadium is also on the list. In fact, the Hayward fault runs directly beneath it and is slowly pulling it apart. But "as a place filled with people only eight times a year, it has a little lower priority than classrooms and dormitories in use all year around," says Finlayson.

Many departments have pitched in on emergency preparedness, she says. Of those, Environment, Health, and Safety; Physical Plant; Information Systems and Technology; Planning, Design, and Construction; and the University Police Department have played the biggest roles.

"Support from upper management, including Chancellor Tien, has also been crucial," says Finlayson. And none too soon. The new system has already been tested--sort of.

On Aug. 12, a rat chewed through a power line and caused a campuswide power outage. Finlayson's office activated the emergency-information line to tell callers when power would be restored.

Last year, when a release of chemicals formed a toxic cloud over Richmond that might have drifted into Berkeley, campus area coordinators were kept abreast of the situation through the emergency network.

Still, it's earthquake the system is mostly meant for. Scientists say there's a 67 percent probability of one or more quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater occurring in the Bay Area at any moment in the next 30 years.


Copyright 1994, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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