South Puget Sound Community College’s long-term project of implementing a solid emergency response plan is progressing as the school now plans to have monthly emergency drills.
In 2003, the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5 made it a law for all government offices to have a system and plan to respond to an emergency.
Lonnie Hatman, the college’s director of security, said it has taken the school’s incident response team seven years to make up a system that covered all the requirements in the Homeland Security Act.
Although Hatman realizes this may sound like a long time, he said this emergency plan is a lot more than just monthly drills. He said getting ready to do just one practice emergency scenario can take up to one year in preparation time.
Hatman said most of the time and money is spent getting people trained correctly, by taking classes online and in-class courses, and then making sure they are committed enough to the program to stick around.
Hatman said the college is on track with its timeline for completing their emergency response plan, and is even ahead of other community colleges in the state.
While emergency drills are not required by law, Hatman said the incident response team is doing these to make sure the students are just as prepared as the team is for an emergency.
The first one was a fire drill that happened on April 11 at 10:30 a.m. and again at 5:30 p.m. in Building 35.
Teachers were not given any warning as to when the drill would be and will not be given any warning for future ones.
There are maps in every classroom of where evacuation areas are for each building, so all teachers knew exactly where to bring their class for the drill.
However, students’ knowledge of where to go depends on whether they listen to their professors and can follow directions well.
Hatman said the fire drill went as planned, and students were not panicking.
This school’s incident response team needs practice, Hatman said. He said students were a little confused about where to go after evacuating the building during the first fire drill.
Hatman said one of the first things he and the incident response team need to work on is remedial training to better direct the assembly areas for students.
Hatman said having monthly emergency drills is not just for students safety, but for the faculty and for the school’s incident response team to see what it needs to improve on.
Hatman said each building has a specific area of where they should evacuate so they are away from the building and safe from danger.
Student Tasha Dunsmoor was in her biology class Thursday morning when the fire alarm went off with what she called bad timing.
Although she said the weather was fine and the drill did not take long, it interrupted review for the next day’s test.
Dunsmoor said she kept calm during the flashing lights of the fire alarm and remembers the alarm with recorded announcements, “Emergency has occurred. Evacuate the building.”
Directions were given by professors.
Dunsmoor said after evacuating her class into the halls and eventually the baseball field, nobody seemed panicked. She said her class had an easy time following her teacher, Lynette Rushton, to the correct assembly area.
Rushton is on the school’s safety committee and is one of three evacuation coordinators in Building 35. Rushton believes there’s a reason for having safety drills, and the reason is safety.
However, she said, “If it was during a test I would have a different opinion.”