Is City College Emergency Ready?

By Fleur Bailey

Emergency preparedness may run under the radar for most students and faculty members, but for Sunny Clark, associate dean of student health services and director of the Student Health Center, it is a top priority.

Clark’s job involves collaborating with numerous city leadership officials to develop and coordinate a district-wide disaster preparedness system.

“This is an ongoing issue and we are constantly working on our plans and procedures,” Clark said. “Our training covers all hazards from earthquakes to active shooters on campus.”

Homeland Security Presidential Directive Five provides for the creation of a National Incident Management System to “prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies.” The directive requires all universities and school districts to comply with the system to receive federal or state grant money.

According to Clark, because City College did not meet federal guidelines, they employed the West Coast Consulting Group. The group devised an evacuation plan and emergency response program in December 2007. Copies of the plan are distributed to designated administrators on each campus.

“All leaderships have to go through this training with the city and county fire department and the police,” Clark said. “Hospitals, public health officials, port authority, public transit, we all have to know what’s going on and we train together underneath the federal mandate to create a smooth line.”

The emergency response plan contains reference information for different emergency situations with names and contact information of primary response team personnel for each campus, as well as evacuation maps. Clark said she is trying to ensure there are at least three personnel to cover each position. The evacuation maps are posted on every floor of every building on the campus. A backup is also provided online.

Even with all of the work going on behind the scenes, some students are still apprehensive about their personal safety at school. Stefania Siragusa, 30, an international student at City College from Italy, said her concerns for her personal safety at school go further than just preparing for natural disasters. She is nervous after the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, where a 21-year-old student killed 30 people and wounded 25 others on campus.

“If something like that happened here I wouldn’t know what to do,” Siragusa said. “I would like to be able to see the preparation for those types of situations, drills or something.”

The City College Police Department is taking steps to provide a stronger sense of awareness. Its Web Site directs users to links for disaster preparedness, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the San Francisco Government Department of Emergency Management, all with details of how to personally prepare and deal with an emergency situation.

Officer Christian Smith has worked for the police department for 10 years. He works from the dispatch center at the Ocean campus, which covers the entire college district. Sixteen of the 22 police officers at City College are stationed on Ocean campus, with the remainder distributed between the Downtown, Mission, Southeast, and John Adams campuses.

“We had an incident last year with someone on the Ocean campus threatening lives,” Smith said. “We responded within a minute because we were right there on the campus. But as we’re an unarmed unit we couldn’t approach him in case he was an active shooter. We formed a squad but had to wait for the armed police. A lot of the teachers in the science building responded very well that day, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea for teachers to have more specific training for that type of situation.”

On June 25, 2008, City College announced that it was enhancing emergency communications on campus with AlertU, which gives lets administrators send text message alerts and emergency updates to the mobile devices of students, faculty and staff in real time. All students are encouraged to sign up at or by accessing the campus police Web site at

“We need as many students and staff to sign up for AlertU as possible. Our college emergency response plan is a living document which is revised and updated,” Clark said. “Our training is scenario-dependent, we teach the leaders how to lead if an incident was to take place. We are working to get as many people as we can trained in the structure and practice so we can be better prepared.”

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