Is Your Campus Prepared for An Earthquake?

TORRANCE, Calif.—Because earthquakes are more common in California, many might believe that earthquake preparedness doesn’t apply to their campuses. It should be noted, however, that while California is certainly more prone to earthquakes than other areas in the United States, geologists and seismologists say there is a 97 percent chance of a major earthquake occurring between now and 2035 in the New Madrid seismic zone that includes Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to a report by the CDC.

If that information comes as a shock, then chances are your campus is not prepared for such an event. Maybe it’s time to prepare a plan. Additionally, some plans might even help in preparing for other natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

For K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals, an evacuation plan is a must; however, there are a few things campuses can do to make sure the potential damage can be reduced. Hospitals are more likely to be prepared for an earthquake because they have been preparing for disasters for years, according to Clifford Adkins, CEO and founder of Des Peres, Mo.-based ARC Products LLC and the maker of emergency evacuation equipment.However, the following steps provided by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) can be beneficial for all campuses:

  • Consult     with a qualified engineering firm to determine if your campus meets     current structural safety standards
  • Prepare     and regularly update earthquake plans. Integrate them into the crisis     planning and hazard mitigation process.
  • Determine     and post primary and alternate routes for emergency evacuation of the     campus. Establish procedures for people needing evacuation assistance.
  • Hold     periodic drills and exercises. Institute ongoing training programs in     emergency procedures, first aid, CPR, evacuation, search and rescue, use     of fire extinguishers and damage assessment.
  • Conduct     “hazard hunts” for nonstructural hazards in offices, classrooms,    storerooms, laboratories, etc. Secure and anchor objects, furnishings and     equipment.
  • Develop     an inventory of supplies and equipment, such as emergency kits with first     aid supplies, radios, flashlights, batteries, heavy gloves, etc. Make sure     these kits are in multiple secure and accessible locations.

During an earthquake, it is important for students, faculty, staff and patients to do the following to reduce their chances of injury:

  • Get     under a table or desk and hold on to it
  • If a     person is not near a table or desk, stand or crouch in a strongly     supported doorway or brace himself in an inside corner of the house or     building. It is IMPERATIVE that you cover your face and head with your     arms.
  • Stay     clear of windows, glass that could shatter or objects that could fall on     you.
  • If     you’re inside, remain inside. Often, people are injured at entrances of     buildings by falling debris.

For evacuation tips during a natural disaster, click here.

Ashley Willis is associate editor for Campus Safety magazine. She can be contacted at (310) 533-2419 or

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