Over 1,000 PCC students and faculty were gathered around the iconic mirror pools and open parking lots as sirens and alarms blared during a campus-wide evacuation and lockdown in anticipation of the Great California ShakeOut last Thursday.

The Great California Shakeout belongs to the America’s PrepareAthon!, a national campaign that was created to prepare the community with skills for any hazardous threats. With over 10.7 million participants in Southern California this year, the ShakeOut was designed to raise awareness of earthquake survival skills, and was organized for the first time in 2015 with the message to “drop, cover and hold on.”

With last year’s failure of communication between the administration and the students resulting in the lack of an actual evacuation, this year’s drill was proven to be more effectively carried out by PCC’s office of Police and College Safety and a volunteer team made up of the school’s faculty and staff. By 10:45 a.m. all PCC’s buildings were emptied out, as the team’s members guided everyone to stay close to the mirror pools.

“The vast majority of our buildings were evacuated within 15 minutes. There were trained floors captains who are responsible for making sure that every floor is clear, and then the floor’s captains report to the building’s captain, who is able to say that the building is clear,” said Alex Boekelheide, PCC’s strategic communication and marketing executive director. “Today we were able to see that those people all did their jobs; they reported to the system correctly, and they were able to evacuate all the buildings in a timely manner.”

According to Boekelheide, the team had put in their best effort to advertise the ShakeOut beforehand. There were noticeable posters on the side street, on building entrance doors, and the school’s bulletin board. Many teachers were informed about the drill, who then notified their students. Social media was also utilized as a tool to get out the drill’s information to the students off-campus.

Despite all of the preparation that took place for the drill, one of the school’s most effective emergency tools, the Rave Alert SMS and email system, failed to deliver texts and emails to many students when the drill started.

Admitting that the system failed due to the mass amount of texts and emails that it had to send out at the same time, which created a “bottleneck” effect and caused the alerts’ delay, Boekelheide said the school is determined to find a way to improve the system and send out more information directly to the students next time.

When asked of why the slogan “drop, cover and hold on” wasn’t brought up as much as evacuating was, Boekelheide explained that if there is an exit nearby, it is more reasonable for students and the faculty to get out of their places. If a person drops and covers, there is a chance that there would be blockage in his or her way of escaping the building later.

Boekelheide also wanted to inform students and teachers that in a case of real emergency, everyone should all try to stay on the ground and avoid the outside walkway as ambulances, firetrucks and police cars will need a direct entrance into the school’s buildings.

“I think it was a good test of the system that we have in place if we ever have to deal with this kind of thing,” Boekelheide said. “Generally, I think people were satisfied with what we learned from it. There’s always improvement to be made…but we set a good baseline result for this sort of activity.”

Overall, this year’s ShakeOut was considered a success that surely shook up PCC and raised the community’s awareness.

“For something to become part of the campus culture with a large amount of buy-in, it does take time. The ShakeOut experience goes beyond the 5-minute drill,” Carrie Afuso, PCC’s student life advisor, wrote in an email. “We don’t like to think that the worst can ever happen, so events like this provide an opportunity to focus on what the best practices are.”

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