Earthquake Drill Shakes Up SMC Campuses



For years, Santa Monica College participated in the annual Great California Shakeout earthquake drill. However, on Thursday, Oct. 19, SMC Police Chief Johnnie Adams said they planned out this year's earthquake drill differently.

"We've decided that we were gonna step things up a little bit," Adams said. "We actually established a command post last year, and that was the first part of getting people using the command forms and things like that."

The first alarm sounded at around 10:14 a.m., with the PA system soon after instructing students and faculty to drop down and cover their heads. By 10:19 a.m., students and faculty had to evacuate from the campus, and remain outside for about 40 minutes before the drill ended, allowing them to resume daily activities.

The school holds the drill to prepare students and faculty for not only earthquakes, but any natural disaster that could hit the Santa Monica area. Adams explained on some simulated scenarios that would explain the possible dangers and hazard warnings, so the school can review the response and see and what needs to be improved on. "It's all a learning experience, and that's why [we] try to get a look at these things, and it's to get better at responding to different emergencies," Adams said.

A volunteer program named the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), an organization that is part of Santa Monica's Office of Emergency Management, participated in the event at the main campus. The program's representative, Paul Weinberg, explained how the program collaborated with SMC for this event. "We work every year with our partners in the city, and we try to coordinate what types of training we do during the shakeout drill," Weinberg said. "Most organizations will do this type of building evacuation plan as well as some internal disaster drill....we'll be simulating a response to an earthquake here in Southern California."

Marcia Lewis, the Emergency Preparedness and facilitator at SMC since January of this year, explained the time it took to set everything up for the drill. "We've been here since 5:30 this morning," Lewis said. "I set the trailer up last week, opened up all of the boxes, and organized the shelves. We've been doing debriefings on throughout the day, so we've been here all morning."

The same practice also took place in the Center for Media and Design satellite campus on Stewart Street, but due to its newly functioning status and compact campus, the CMD had a different approach to Thursday's earthquake drill. The campus security kept a theme of simplicity while conducting the drill as only emails were sent out to the CMD faculty in preparation of the shakeout.

In addition to the 10:14 am drill that was rehearsed at the same time as the Main Campus, and another drill occurred later on that night. At 8:20 pm, an alarm rang again for a second earthquake drill, catching many students by surprise. One of those included 28-year old Jeehyun Chang, a second-year design major at SMC who said she didn't know what to do because she never heard this kind of alert before.

"If there were any guidance person, maybe I could follow him, but I just looked around and no one seemed to care about it." Chang said. "Because there was no one to guide [me], I thought it wasn't that serious.

Faculty were also not given notice of the nighttime drill. Film Production Coordinator Drew Davis thought there would only be one drill today, but understood that "the point of the drill was to put you through the paces."

Davis believed that one factor behind the second drill was to test how well the alarm system sounded at the CMD, which was a concern of students like Medrano. "I know there are places where if you're standing, you can't hear everything," Davis said. "I know there's a lot of notes among the supervisors about it, exactly how loud things were. That's one thing they could make use of that information."

The Great California Shake Out Drill is a yearly event that takes place on October 19, at 10:19am. Many people participate in this evacuation drill to be prepared for possible earthquakes. This year SMC's new CMD campus took part in this event for the first time.