Hannah Pederson, Reporter
Pierce College took part in The Great Washington ShakeOut, a statewide effort to promote emergency preparedness, on Oct. 15. Several other colleges in the vicinity such as Pacific Lutheran University and Bates Technical College also participated in the event.
At 10:15 a.m., Pierce students were instructed to take shelter under their desks. Two minutes later, the evacuation alarm sounded, and students and staff poured out of the buildings and into the parking lots where it was a brisk 48.4 degrees. About 10 minutes later, the all-clear was given, and students and staff were allowed to re-enter the buildings.
Chris MacKersie, district director of safety and security who oversees such measures in the Pierce College District, views this voluntary drill as a necessity.
During the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, MacKersie was a member of the campus safety team and saw firsthand how Pierce community members responded to such natural disasters. According to MacKersie, most of the few injuries sustained that day were due to panic and moving too quickly to leave the buildings. The evacuation team members were able to move students and staff away from buildings with potentially compromised integrity, though the damage sustained was minimal.
“If an earthquake happened today, we would respond differently,” MacKersie said.
Most of this due to the advent of more advanced technology. Currently, Pierce invests a substantial amount of effort and funds in safety, according to MacKersie. It employs extensively trained evacuation directors and stocks large amounts of survival supplies. The college also has a contract with Everbridge, a company that specializes in mass communication systems.
“We’re expected to be trained to a degree, self-sufficient to a degree,” MacKersie said.
The Puyallup campus stocks two 100 person trauma bags filled with gauze, bandages, splints and other supplies. The same emergency equipment is used on the fire rigs at West Pierce Fire & Rescue and Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, according to MacKersie.
In the event of a major natural disaster such as the impending Cascadia quake, community colleges like Pierce wouldn’t be a priority to first responders. It wouldn’t be every man for himself, but the Puyallup campus would only be able to support the entire student and staff population for about seven days without outside help.
“I would strongly encourage them (those who view The Great Washington ShakeOut drill as unnecessary) to seek out anyone who’s active duty or prior military, some sort of a first responder, and ask them how critical training prior to an emergency is before they jump to the judgement that it’s unnecessary,” MacKersie said.
Natural disaster preparedness doesn’t account for all disasters, but MacKersie says the majority of the training evacuation directors go through is applicable to most volatile situations, and unlike in the event of an earthquake, first responders will be able to easily access the campus to take charge. Even so, Pierce will offer active shooter training to staff, students and the community in the coming weeks. Three training sessions were scheduled for Oct. 27 and Oct. 28. The last session is from 6-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 in Room LSC 244.
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