"The Great ShakeOut" Hits SMC

On Thursday, October 18, Santa Monica College participated in an annual state wide optional earthquake drill, called “the Great Southern California ShakeOut.” This 2018 ShakeOut marked the 10-year anniversary of the event, which aims to provide Southern California residents with an opportunity to practice a potential earthquake scenario.

At exactly 10:18 a.m., alarms sounded on all three of SMC’s campuses, instructing students to duck and cover. Some classrooms reacted immediately, while others delayed, finishing class work before responding to the drill. After a few moments, Building Monitors in marked blue vests and helmets began ushering students and faculty out of classrooms and towards the exits.

On all three campuses, students walked nonchalantly through the halls, following their professors and security personnel to reach designated safe areas marked on maps distributed to faculty members the night before.

One of the first out of the Center for Media Design, SMC student Alberto Hernandez explained, “Our teacher explained what was going to happen before the drill. I think it put us in a pretty good situation.”

While several students reported that faculty had warned them of the impending drill, some expressed they felt that warning them of the drill made the circumstances unrealistic. Santa Monica College Police Chief Johnnie Adam’s spoke to SMC’s effort to limit information distributed about the ShakeOut, he stated: “In any training we want to make it as realistic as possible. And in this situation we limited the amount of people that were here to be involved so it would simulate a regular day’s operation.”

Student Sam Nelson was taking classes at the CMD building during the ShakeOut and evacuated to the Stewart St. bus stop. He explained, “Initially I didn’t know what to do, but the staff came along and instructed us,” but when asked if he’d know what to do in a real emergency, Nelson said, “Maybe not, I’d probably come [outside], but if the crowd got too big it could be dangerous.”

Student Alexis Green, sitting beside Nelson at the bus stop in front of the CMD, agreed, “in a moment of panic, you’re not thinking of all the right things to do. The way CMD is structured, it’s pretty problematic.” Both Green and Nelson explained that they thought SMC Security should post more signs and maps for students to know proper evacuation routes in case of a real emergency.

When asked if he hadn’t been warned by his professor, would Hernandez have known how to react if an earthquake struck while he was in class, he expressed, “I don’t know.”

During the ShakeOut, after Campus Monitors had evacuated campus buildings, some students and faculty were seen casually congregating under large glass windows, and brick buildings, two considerably dangerous places in the event of an earthquake. At the CMD campus, no clear safe area was delineated, and individuals were seen leaning up against buildings and sitting under the shadow of large glass panes.

In about a half hours’ time, the all-clear was sounded and students and faculty began to return to classrooms.

SMC Police Chief Adams explained that events such as the ShakeOut are always an opportunity to learn and grow, and said, “We learned in this particular drill that sometimes when we’re putting our little signs on the windows saying that’s it’s all clear. There are certain rooms that may not be clear because they’re locked, and we can’t get in. We should have a different designation on there.”