Recent Earthquake Drill Tests alert System and Spread Awareness of Preparedness

Graphic courtesy of the Great California ShakeOut website.

On Oct. 17, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Department of Public Safety (PubSafe) sent an email to campus students, faculty and staff announcing that an earthquake drill would happen the following day from 10:45 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., as part of the statewide Great California ShakeOut drill. 

The email said that an emergency alert would be sent out via text and email; at which point the drill would start, signaling the time to practice earthquake procedures “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” When the test alert was sent out, it included resources to learn more about earthquake preparedness.

Kaz Trypuc, the assistant director of the Department of Public Safety, said that the drill was an attempt to create an opportunity for PLNU to pause and review what they would do in the event of an earthquake. 

“We really want to encourage the campus to take emergency preparedness seriously and create an opportunity the same way that Renewal Week is an opportunity for the campus to recenter itself,” Trypuc said. “Hopefully just taking the time to have that thought will lead to better outcomes.”

Students, faculty and staff are not required to comply with the drill. According to Trypuc, participation in campus drills is voluntary.

“We’ve done emergency drills for many years now and participation amongst faculty and students varies,” Trypuc said. 

Erinn Mullaney, PLNU Ryan Library’s circulation supervisor, said that library staff divided up the library and went to every area of the building to let students know what was going on and what they would do in the event of an earthquake. She said that there wasn’t a lot of notice for the drill or enough time to reach every student in the building. 

“By the time I was explaining to a few students, it was over,” Mullaney said. 

She also said that not all of the students got the alert on their phones and seemed unsure of what was happening, so she encouraged them to talk to PubSafe to get that fixed.

Mullaney said that in the event of a real earthquake, she feels like she is prepared. 

“We all know the safest areas and what to do. We have emergency kits at the front desk and in the office and feel fairly well equipped,” said Mullaney. 

Hadley Halbert, a PLNU graduate student who works in the office of Student Life and Formation said she got the alert while in class. 

“I was in Smee [Hall] in one of my master’s classes,” Halbert said. “I got an alert and we were all on break and so no one did anything. My professors did acknowledge the drill but the drill was scheduled like when we were on a break so they just said, if you’re not outside go find cover somewhere.”

The outdoor and indoor speakers in several buildings that would allow for public service messages to be broadcasted have been unreliable and proven to be a complex, difficult system, according to Trypuc. Trypuc said the decision was made this year to decommission them due to the cost and the school is not planning on replacing them. In the case of a real emergency PubSafe will rely on texts and emails to alert the campus. 

“Generally speaking, now the best way to reach somebody is over text message and that is by far the single most important part of the emergency alert system,” Trypuc said. “That text message, when we send that alert out, will go out to about 5,000 people. Every student, every employee should get that in a matter of seconds. We really, really rely on that, that’s a system we test, it’s a system we’ve invested in and it’s a system that works.” 

According to Trypuc, the campus leadership evaluates safety concerns regularly and determines which drills each semester are necessary. There is one planned for the spring, but it has yet to be determined which kind of drill will be prepared.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to make sure they have an active number and email on file so that alerts can reach them in the case of an emergency.