Strategy highlights exit paths, awareness

By Efrain Valdez / The Advocate, Social Media Editor

Contra Costa College administrators and first responders have a plan in place to keep people on campus safe in the case of a natural disaster.

Recent catastrophes, like the three major earthquakes that have hit different parts of Mexico, have raised concerns about the safety plans in place locally.

“Our district has a mutual understanding with the American Red Cross that our sites (Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Los Medanos College in Pittsburg and CCC in San Pablo) can be used as shelter,” college President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said.

“The Red Cross ultimately decides if one of our sites will be used. If this campus is used as a shelter I, as college president, step back and let them (Red Cross) take control,” she said.

The Red Cross dictates and makes sure that everybody involved, such as city officials, first responders and college officials, are on the same page in the wake of a natural disaster.

“We have a plan so people know what parking lot they have to evacuate too,” Lt. Tom Holt said.

Holt said that Police Services conducts evacuation drills in a different building randomly every month. He said that there is at least one building monitor in each building on campus who knows the evacuation plan and who has direct contact with Police Services radios. The purpose of having a building monitor in each building is to keep order in moments of panic, Lt. Holt said.

“The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is an outline that we (first responders) use to manage disasters in an organized way,” he said. CCC participates in the International Shakeout day annually, which is one way the school prepares for an earthquake.

“I don’t know if we’re always going to be 100 percent sure we are prepared for a disaster,” Mehdizadeh said. “We all (first responders and college officials) meet once a month to keep the plans that in place fresh in our minds.”

NIMS was created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that government, private-sector and non-governmental organizations can work together during domestic incidents.

“We work with the Red Cross so when something does happen we have a lot buildings with room for shelter and there are ways for us to get food, water here fast,” Holt said.

“All we can do is try to limit the damage here at the college. We keep trees away from buildings and make sure brush is cut low,” Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said. “Getting everything back to normal and get classes going again are priorities.”

“There are two trailers that are filled with emergency supplies like non-perishable foods,” King said. “We have 60 cabinets of food and those are replaced every once in a while.”

Per the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, the Hayward Fault, which bisects the CCC campus, is the most dangerous fault on the West Coast.

“We’re on the fault line (Hayward Fault), so it’s hard to see our campus as a shelter in the case of a major earthquake,” Mehdizadeh said. King said that the Hayward Fault has an earthquake magnitude 7 every 200 years and we’re overdue for one.”

Holt said that they try to do regular walk-throughs with the fire departments of Richmond and San Pablo so that those departments know the campus.

King said that the Applied Arts Building, Biology Building and Student Services Building have supporting beams that you can’t see behind the wall.

“All of the construction and new buildings on campus are meant to ensure safety,” Mehdizadeh said. King said that he “feels good” about what the district has done with the recent retrofitting of buildings.

Mehdizadeh said that Richmond’s fire chief came to campus about a month ago.

“We meet once a year and have a live table-top exercise with first responders. These help us simulate a real disaster situation,” she said.