By Joe Fitzgerald
Teachers and faculty ducked under tables for cover as the sound of a man yelling “Everyone, oh my god there’s an earthquake!” echoed across Room 140 of the Multi-use building.
This signalled the start of City College’s first management exercise in establishing an “Emergency Operations Command,” in which various faculty grabbed leading roles in a mock earthquake rescue operation that took place on April 22.
Vice chancellor of Administration and Finance Peter Goldstein was thrust into position of incident commander in charge of coordinating the Emergency Operations Command Center. When asked why Chancellor Don Griffin wasn’t incident commander, the vice chancellor replied that the scenario of that day’s exercise was in handling a crisis while the chancellor was away in Sacramento.
Inside Room 140, more than 30 faculty members and campus police donned reflective vests with job titles displayed on their fronts and backs, dividing into six specific response groups: operations, intelligence, finance, planning/IT, incident command and management.
Faculty pored over maps, fact sheets and incident statistics that were laid across tables and desks. The hush of concentrated speech took over the room as teams went to work.
In the hallway just outside, journalism students swarmed the makeshift podium, peppering the vice chancellor, campus Police Chief Andre Barnes and alumni relations program official Gohar Mamjian with questions concerning the mock disaster. Goldstein noted that the tragedy in Japan helped bring the issue of emergency preparedness into the forefront of the administration’s agenda.
“I think it’s a direct response to the earthquake in Japan, and is a reflection of us realizing how fragile it really is here,” Goldstein said in reference to the exercise’s focus on earthquake response.
Earthquakes aren’t the only type of emergency City College faculty have been training to deal with.
“One scenario we did involved an active shooter taking hostages at the Child Development Center. That was a horrible scenario,” Goldstein said with a darker tone than he had through much of the interview.
The Emergency Response Plan, of which these exercises are a part, is a revision of City College’s 2005 Emergency Operations Plan. The ERP is a way for City College to make sure it’s emergency response is more in line with the city-wide Department of
Emergency Planning, which governs the emergency response for all government agencies in the city and county of San Francisco. This new plan will be more in line with federal and state emergency guidelines, such as the Incident Command System, Office of Emergency Services and the National Response Framework.
Kim Aufhauser, of the Disaster Resistant Calif. Community Colleges Project, led the training. Aufhauser trains community college faculties across California in handling emergency situations of all kinds, coaching school administration’s management styles and crafting mock emergencies.
“I gave them little inputs, which were pretty grim – Cloud Hall collapsed, and nine people are dead on the campus. When was the last time they had nine people dead on the campus?”
Aufhauser responded glibly to the fact that California’s Loma Prieta earthquake happened back in 1989, but there has only been a major push in Emergency Response in the past few years.
“Why dwell on that?” Aufhauser said. “What’s important is that colleges are taking it seriously now, and are getting the training done.”
He is one of many trainers in California, and says that some colleges seek his help while other colleges are assigned the training by their chancellors and take it grudgingly.
When asked to evaluate City College’s performance, Aufhauser said City College had taken their training more seriously than many administrators and faculty that he had seen in California.
“Human resources faculty, math, history teachers – they were all taken out of their comfort zones and day to day roles,” Aufhauser said. “These people rose to the occasion.”
Check out the photo slide show coverage of the event at TheGuardsman.com/EPrep