Berkeley universities

The “big one”: the campus, the city must prepare for earthquakes

We all know that the “big” – an impending earthquake of unknown magnitude and incredible destructive potential – is approaching. The only question is when. It may happen tonight, in five years or in 20 years, but one thing is certain: is coming.

A series of small earthquakes in the Bay Area over the past few weeks have only caused more concern among residents. Although each is barely noticeable, some fear it could be a precursor to a huge movement on the San Andreas Fault, now nearly 100 years overdue. Such an earthquake would be devastating, likely to affect most California cities, and could cut off access to roads, water supplies, and food.

It is precisely because of this uncertainty and potential for mass destruction that UC Berkeley and the City of Berkeley must be better prepared for the “big one”.

UC Berkeley has made notable progress in prioritizing seismic safety, with all buildings being rated using the UC Seismic Rating System, which was created in conjunction with California State Universities and the Services Department California generals. According to campus spokesman Dan Mogulof, no buildings on campus in use are rated VII, or “unsafe to occupy.”

Additionally, 23 buildings listed as VI, or “requires improvement”, are to be replaced, upgraded or completely vacated by the end of 2030, an ambitious improvement plan. To date, Mogulof added, the campus has invested more than $1 billion to improve building seismic safety.

The City of Berkeley provides many resources for those wishing to learn more about earthquake safety – residents can easily access the city’s website to find out how to sign up for emergency notifications, sign up for training courses of the city’s Community Emergency Response Team and create personal disaster plans.

However, improvements in campus and city policies are needed to ensure that all safety measures are cemented in advance of an earthquake.

Enforcing building codes that keep residents safe and ensuring regular checks are carried out in apartment buildings are key to keeping structures as safe as possible against earthquakes.

The city also needs strong plans to protect homeless residents or provide them with care and supplies in the event of a major earthquake. Likewise, low-income, disabled, and elderly residents should be prioritized when the city government considers earthquake preparedness. Small grants for qualified residents to buy supplies, distribution of “go bags” or free community awareness workshops are all plausible avenues that can ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community are not left behind during of a major earthquake.

On campus, administrators must work with departments and faculty to ensure fire codes are adhered to in buildings, even if that means moving some large classes entirely online or rotating attendance days. in person.

Additionally, the campus should emphasize and prioritize students who receive some form of seismic safety training, even if it is only offered online or during orientation. For example, students should know where they can evacuate after an earthquake, what materials they should keep prepared in their dorms or living areas, and how they should respond and potentially help others immediately after a severe earthquake. .

In campus and city responses, communication plans need to be streamlined, strengthened, and communicated before the earthquake.

Currently, the campus advises students to use the WarnMe emergency alert system for emergency updates. The city is urging residents to check sources, including Zonehaven, AC Alert, 1610 AM radio or television. However, these modes of communication are useless if people are not equipped with the tools to respond to them.

On campus, this means increased encouragement to register for these services; in the city, this means ensuring that the most vulnerable residents, such as low-income families or the elderly, have access to different types of technologies in the event of an emergency.

While our city and our campus are undoubtedly working hard to prepare for an earthquake, it is imperative that we not lose the urgency and intensity towards improvement. When any day could be the day the “big hit” happens, every second counts – we have to make every second count.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by Fall 2022 Opinion Editor Sebastian Cahill.