Simulated Earthquake Prepares University for Actual Emergencies

Simulated Earthquake Prepares University for Actual Emergencies
Emergency personnel rush an “injured” student out of a “collapsed” building after a simulated earthquake drill at Cal Poly Pomona.
Student injuries are “treated” in a nearby ambulance after a simulated earthquake. The situation was staged to prepare the campus for a real disaster.

An earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale hits the Puente Hills fault, causing a partial building collapse at Cal Poly Pomona with thirteen victims trapped beneath the rubble. Some victims are able to dig their way out of the caved in building with only minor wounds, while others appear to face life-threatening injuries. Student Health Services staff rush to the area to set up a medical treatment site and begin evaluating injuries as University Police and other emergency personnel arrive on scene to transport those with critical injuries to nearby hospitals. Fortunately, the earthquake isn't a real act by Mother Nature  only a simulated situation staged by the university and local emergency personnel as part of the campus Emergency Management Plan to prepare for a real disaster.

The simulated earthquake in Building 4, the Biotechnology Building, on Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. was part of an emergency preparedness exercise intended to ensure that the university's emergency procedures are up-to-date and accurate.

In charge of the emergency operation was Emergency Services Coordinator Debbi McFall, who worked closely with Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD) Station 187 to plan the event. Paramedic Squad 61, MEDIC-1 Ambulance Company, Student Health Services and University Village Community Residence Life Team at Foundation Housing also participated in the exercise.

“Student Health Services has a deep commitment to providing good appropriate medical care to the campus community in the event of an emergency,” says McFall. “Each year, just before the Fall Quarter begins, they practice their skills in this type of exercise to make sure they're ready to support the campus community in an actual emergency.”

“The whole idea was to reinforce the partnership between the university and area emergency services to see if there are any processes we can improve upon,” says McFall.

As part of the exercise, 13 student members of the University Village Residence Life Team patiently waited their turn to be made up as “victims” for the mass casualty emergency drill.

The victims injuries were amazingly lifelike due to the makeup applied by McFall and Fred Henderson, manager of special projects & campus outreach for the University Police Department, along with community volunteers Randy Gomez and Renee Moyer. One student “suffered” a compound fracture; another victim had a wooden shard lodged in his head. Others were lucky enough to escape with only scrapes and bruises. There were no “fatalities” in this drill.

“The 'injuries' add a sense of reality to the emergency exercise,” says McFall.

The emergency exercise concluded in an hour with a participant critique immediately following.

For information about the campus Emergency Management Plan, contact McFall at (909) 869-6981.