Earthquake Drills Move SU To Preparedness

The new earthquake drills have stirred—or rather shaken—up discussions about safety. But careful planning and open dialogue has gone into new plans, all driven by a desire to aid the Seattle University community.

On Wednesday at 10 a.m., the university held a 90 second drill to prepare the campus for future earthquakes. Messages, email alerts and campus wide notifications were sent out on the hour to inform students of the quick three-step procedure—drop, cover and hold.

This drill is a part of the ShakeOut campaign, a worldwide effort to promote safety and emergency preparedness. From Italy to California, communities and organizations have mobilized to make sure everyone is prepared for an earthquake.

The organization said on its website that, “Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills are an annual opportunity for people in homes, schools and organizations to practice what to do during earthquakes, and to
improve preparedness.”

When participating in our own drills at Seattle U, we must keep in mind the motivation behind them.

“The goals really are to get everyone at our university, to get everyone in our community prepared to protect themselves,” said Assistant Director of Emergency Operations Chris Wilcoxen.

The drills also give the university an opportunity to test the safety notifications system. Public safety has created many different mediums to communicate with both students, faculty and staff on campus. The E2Campus texting app, the Safehawk smartphone app and emails are used to deliver alerts on drills or any local security issues. Voice-over internet features are also being applied to phone systems allowing Public Safety to communicate instantaneously with nearly every facility at Seattle U.

Yet at a recent forum on Monday in the Administration Building, concerns were raised over the specifics of drills like these. Questions were raised about how to react in different facilities, such as what to do when in a lab, on the top floor of a building, or in an office. Beyond those questions, concerns about how, for example, students with disabilities are included in these plans also surfaced.

“I think it’s a little bit challenging for able-bodied people to look at a thing like an earthquake drill and anticipate where people with mobility challenges might have trouble,” said Kiana Parker, the alternative media coordinator at Disabilities Services.

For Park, we have to actively try to be in conversation with all parts of the student body when considering plans like these. The specifics of the drill have to be broadly publicized so that all students with or without disabilities can know exactly what to do. Beyond that, she stressed the importance of keeping in mind that disabilities could encompass anything from anxiety, veterans with PTSD or other mobility-related challenges.

“I think when your goal is the safety of everyone, as is Public Safety’s goal, the way to be most prepared is to anticipate the needs of the people you’re going to be helping should this event occur,” she said.

At the forum, Parker encouraged a discussion between students from all backgrounds with Public Safety, in order to make sure that all needs
are being met.

Wilcoxen spoke to this, acknowledging any conversation with the students of Seattle U as a way for the institution to grow and become more inclusive. For him, comments or even complaints are a part of making his job better at addressing the needs of students.

“We get all that feedback and it’s great because immediately after we get that feedback we go directly in to try to solve those problems, and figure out what happened… As soon as we know there’s breakdown, we have to get it fixed. We cannot let that continue,” he said.

Wilcoxen also sees emergency preparedness as showing the broader role of Public Safety on campus. Helping people protect themselves through these drills shows Public Safety’s efforts beyond just campus security.
“Yes we do serve a greater function, we don’t serve policy function. We’re here to protect people, to make sure people who come to school here are safe while they’re here,” Wilcoxen said.

And for him, as well as the rest of Public Safety, that is what he hopes to achieve with these renewed efforts. The drills, to them, are just a starting point. And when it comes down to it, these drills only take 90 seconds
of our time.

**This article was written before the drill occurred.

Bianca Sewake

This is Bianca Sewake's fourth and final year at The Spectator, where she is the Online Content Editor and Managing Editor. She is equal parts excited and terrified that she is graduating with a BA in Journalism this spring. Unlike her hair color, Bianca's love for ice cream will never change.


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