Biola University 2012-2013: Year In Review
Biola shakes it up
The Chimes rewinds to the best moments of the 2012-2013 school year.
By Kathryn Watson
The “big one” hit Southern California Thursday, causing catastrophic damage to Biola's campus — hypothetically speaking, at least. As a part of the Great Southern California ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake drill with over 6.7 million participants from various institutions and agencies, Biola role-played what would happen if a 7.2- magnitude quake struck campus. This marked the third year Biola has participated in a campuswide earthquake drill like this, but the first year it has included ResLife and evacuated all the dorms, said Carissa Brooks, manager of emergency operations and disaster preparedness. Justin Shelby, public information officer for Campus Safety, said the drill had stepped up its appearance of authenticity from the last year. “Every year, we have to make it more realistic,” he said. An Emergency Response Team, consisting of staff from various departments such as Facilities Services, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Health Center, assembled around tables at 9:15 a.m. behind the library to walk through the process of handling the emergency. As all Internet and phone lines — including cell phones — were down for an undeterminable amount of time in the drill and the outside world was apparently unable to help for at least three days, the E.R.T. had to make Biola self-sufficient. The quake, its epicenter along the Puente Hills Trust fault line, lasted about 50 seconds, according to Thursday's scenario. E.R.T. members and RDs were unaware of the scenario’s specifics before the drill began. John Ojeisekhoba, chief officer of Campus Safety, commented on the drill's timeliness, as the recent quakes in the 6 and 7-magnitude-range across the Pacific Ocean in Sumatra and other places have caused Campus Safety considerable concern. A catastrophic quake clenching California is not a matter of “if” but “when,” he said. RDs communicated with officers via an emergency channel on handheld radios, informing the E.R.T. of the hypothetical damages and injuries at their dorms as they evacuated students. Some dorms fared far worse than others. In the hypothetical damage assessment, Stewart Hall was basically leveled, with students trapped under rubble. “We're definitely going to need to have the Health Center down there,” said Carissa Brooks, manager of emergency operations and disaster preparedness, when the report from Stewart arrived. Hart Hall suffered a partial building collapse that left two students unconscious. Both lobby exits in Emerson were blocked by rubble, forcing evacuees to exit through emergency doors. Alpha Chi sustained considerable damage to its front walkway and had a possible gas leak, according to radio reports. The dorm later reported possible fatalities. Besides a few cracks, the off-campus apartments were fine. Residents in Hope Hall, while emotionally shaken up, suffered no injuries. The dorm itself was intact. Horton Hall was practically untouched too. Other challenging elements, including ones that questioned Biola's capacity to help others, were introduced this year. Officers received a call from Whittier College requesting room for 500 students displaced as a result of the quake, and a total of 300 neighbors approached Biola at both entrances requesting refuge. E.R.T. members agreed that Biola needed to take care of its own students before welcoming members of the greater community. E.R.T. members then had to decide how their own departments should respond in detail to the scenario. “This isn’t something we can sit and discuss and have coffee over,” Brooks told the E.R.T. with a somber face. “We have to be serious about it — plan quickly and accordingly, okay?” IMC had to figure out how to deal with a flood of calls from concerned parents. The Health Center had to figure out where to place dead bodies. “A lot of those patients are unfortunately going to expire,” said Paola Acevedo of the Health Center. Ojeisekhoba said this year's scenario was far more challenging and realistic than last year's, which involved the collapse of Emerson Hall, a gas leak in the Caf and students trapped in the on-campus apartments' elevators, but involved no real-life evacuations. Ojeisekhoba recognized that a legitimate quake would go far less smoothly than Thursday's drill. The real deal won't be so straightforward, he said. “It's gonna be crazy and it's gonna be spontaneous too,” he said. In the coming weeks, the various groups represented on the E.R.T. will assess their performances and see how they can improve in the future in order to handle a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, Ojeisekhoba said. An analysis will be presented to the President Advisory Council after that.