Last week I survived a five-day natural disaster — a Southern California natural disaster.
The madness is now over, but it got me thinking about what could have happened if the storm had lasted more than one week. Would USC be prepared to handle a flood, a fire or an earthquake?
The devastating situation in Haiti is motivating Americans, more specifically L.A. residents, to prepare for the major earthquake that is likely to hit soon.
According to Lawford Anderson, a professor of earth sciences, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake, larger than the one that recently devastated Haiti, hits Los Angeles once every 160 years. The last one that hit was in 1860, and Anderson said it’s only a matter of time before another disastrous quake erupts.
In fact, USC recently sent out an e-mail warning students to be aware and get themselves ready for a surprise.
So are we prepared?
According to USC Fire Safety and Emergency Planning Specialist Steve Goldfarb, the Department of Public Safety, University Park Health Center, USC Transportation, Hospitality and Housing are all prepared to take immediate action if an emergency were to impact people on campus. These divisions are equipped with access to food, shelter, first aid and transportation should there be a need for it. And the USC Media Relations Office would communicate to students and their parents through the USC website and TrojansAlert to update them on the situation.
In addition, Goldfarb said more than 200 staff and faculty volunteers have been trained to help out during a crisis; for example, conducting search and rescue missions and providing first aid.
USC does makes a significant effort to teach students about earthquakes. For the last two years, USC has carried out official earthquake drill — the ShakeOut — which it heavily advertises through pamphlets, flyers and e-mails.
Unfortunately, that might not be enough, since students still might not know what to do in case of an emergency. I know I don’t.
Although I know a thing or two about earthquakes, having grown up in Los Angeles, when it comes to raging weather conditions, I’m just not ready to deal.
That’s why residential advisers, residential coordinators and area directors are trained in first aid, evaluating emergency situations and evacuation procedures every fall, Goldfarb said in an e-mail. But I’m skeptical about the amount of information that actually sticks with these student support staff members.
For instance, even though the Office of Fire Safety and Emergency Planning might try to get the word out, my resident adviser admitted to not knowing what to do in the event of a crisis, which made me feel less than safe.
And he’s not alone.
I spoke to R.A.s from several residence halls who mentioned they felt iffy about the emergency procedures they would be expected to carry out and suggested that a midyear refresher would be helpful. While I must give credit to a couple of R.A.s who said they would be able to direct students to the correct locations during a crisis, as a whole I worry for the safety of my peers and for my own well-being. If my own R.A., who went through training, is unprepared, how does that affect my safety?
Since I’m not sure who knows what, I guess it’s every man for himself during times of crisis. Anderson warned that students’ top priority is to make sure they have enough water and electricity stored and to secure all items on their bookshelves, such as televisions or DVD players, with Velcro to the wall. It’s time for me to do some shopping.
USC has certainly put in the effort to educate students and faculty about safety procedures, and, in case no one was listening, this university has made sure that every R.A. posts a list of safety procedures for different emergencies on their doors. But I’m still not convinced that the information has sunk in yet. (Until an R.A. mentioned it, I had no idea where students should flee during a fire; turns out it’s the parking lot structure nearest my building.)
It’s time to jump on the bandwagon and educate ourselves about USC’s emergency procedures. The big one is going to hit and we need to be ready.
All things considered, I guess it would be wise to study the procedures in my spare time because I can’t trust anyone better than I can trust myself.
Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. Her column “On the SCene” runs Thursday,