Applied Arts Building undergoes emergency readiness operations

By Jose Arebola, Staff Writer

Confusion set in on Oct. 3 as students were flooded with fire drills, speaker announcements and even presidential alerts, all aimed at easing stress and offering direction in case of an emergency.
Contra Costa College is enhancing its safety procedures in response to a generator fire in the Applied Arts building two weeks ago.
“Repairs are underway on the burned backup generator and are set to be completed next week as the last parts arrive,” Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said.
The campus is shifting its focus away from the small-scale fire, opting instead to prepare for potential disasters of another kind.
With concern growing over emergency preparedness on campus, there has been a rapid response from administration to ensure smooth day to day safety operations.
Drills were immediately planned to help prepare the campus for emergencies. However, it seemed odd that the Applied Arts Building did not have a fire drill that day while instead other buildings did.
Even more odd was the small number of emergency exit route signs throughout the building.
Since the generator fire there has been just one new emergency exit map put up in the building placed next to the upstairs elevator doors.
Its placement is hard to notice, even by people who regularly traverse the AA Building’s halls.
When asked about the number of exit route signs and possible safety concerns, King said there are no real concerns as the building is in full compliance with safety regulations.
Following the fire, Contra Costa College President Katrina VanderWoude said, “I have seen the area where there was a problem and we are confident that we are in a good place for re-opening the building.”
In the immediate days after the incident, Police Services officers were posted in and around the AA Building in case of unforeseen power outages.
Should the power go out during operating hours, there are two officers on standby, ready to be of assistance.
It is a nice reassurance nonetheless, but emergency exit routes should be posted more clearly in the building, especially within its more fragmented hallways.
Police Services Lieutenant Tom Holt said fire is not a main concern at the moment, instead the biggest threats are vehicle breakins and earthquake preparedness.
Holt said the fire was contained to a small, isolated area of the building and was quickly handled, which minimized the risk of any other area of the building being severely damaged.
The fact that the coordinated response to the initial emergency scare was quick and efficient offers a sense of reassurance that while there have been issues in the building, the campus is ready to respond.
Holt said what should concern people on campus is the amount of theft that occurs when belongings are left visible in vehicles.
He suggested that items should be put away out of sight before leaving a vehicle to decrease the chances of a break in.
Looking forward to all possibilities, he also mentioned the importance of understanding the phrase “drop, cover and hold” instead of just trying to stand underneath archways during an earthquake.
This is part of the knowledge shared during the shelter-in-place drills that have been received well on campus. During the Safety Committee’s last meeting these drills and other ways to get more training out were discussed.