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Editorial- The most important class ever

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California is a great place to live.

There’s the beach, the mountains and lots of great landmarks. However, a large price is paid for all this greatness.

The shadow of the big one constantly looms over the postcard perfect views.

Over and over again we hear that a big earthquake is supposed to happen; yet, we’ve been hearing this for the past three decades, and during that time we’ve become jaded and complacent.

In the wake of disasters such as the Virginia Tech shooting, Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake it’s time for us to put down the suntan lotion and get prepared.

It is harder to get a college prepared for a disaster or an emergency because most campuses are open. As for Riverside City College, well they are working on that.

“When you’re ducking and holding under your desk that is not the time to be planning” Sherry Stone explained to participants at the Rubidoux Annex Campus disaster preparedness workshop.

Stone was hired May 2009 as the Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, her job is to train the faculty and staff at RCC on emergency and disaster preparedness.

“I think probably compared to most community colleges we are probably way above most community colleges at this time,” Stone said.

Most staff and faculty have been trained by her or have been given the resources to get the proper training.

“For management and staff there is mandatory training and it’s called SEMS (Standardized Emergency Management System), NEMS (National Incident Management System) and ICS (Incident Command System). I call the workshops Disaster Preparedness with NEMS, SIMS and ICS,” Stone said.

“So our faculty and our management have to be familiar with that because they either supervise people or students,” Stone said. “So we have to have them up to par on their training so that they can serve and help people if some sort of disaster happens.”

If it is mandatory and the training is made accessible to students as well then RCC should be in good hands right?

“If the students are concerned they can actually download from the Disaster Preparedness Web site guidelines and protocol for the first day of class and hand it to the professor and say it’s recommended we go over this in class and see what they say,” Stone said.

Personal responsibility plays a major role in disaster and emergency preparedness, although it may be mandatory for staff, it is not for students.

Students need to be sure their instructors are aware of all the proper safety protocols.

Instead of just taking a 50/50 chance this semester it would be in the students best interest to challenge at least their instructor on the first day of class.

“People do what they are last trained to do, if I sit through a fire alarm and let all my students sit through a fire alarm, the next time my students go through a fire alarm they might just sit through the fire,” Stone said.

It may look a little uncool to some of the other students in the room, but remember we live in California and it is predicted the big one is coming soon.

“I don’t care if you look ridiculous because you don’t know in those first few seconds if it is a 4.0 or an 8.0. So I think the important part in training is training people on what to do in those first crucial seconds,” Stone said.

In a situation like Haiti, Stone describes the first few seconds the Earth will shake lightly and then evolve into a bigger shake, she stresses the importance of what to do in the first few seconds of an Earthquake.

Sharing information between staff and students would be helpful to ensure we’ll be a little safer on the campus if disaster strikes.

Besides asking instructors and staff what the plan is in case of an event of an emergency or disaster, students have other things on campus to alert them.

“Alert U will help students and staff on different types of incidents that might be going on that they need to be aware of,” Stone said. “Like the time that they had a mountain lion on the Moreno Valley campus they told students not to walk alone at night.”

On the college’s Web site under the student services link it will lead you to the police and parking link where you will finally find a link for emergency preparedness.

There you will find tips and information to educate yourself on the campus’s plan for an emergency.

If you would like to go the extra mile like some staff, there is a Homeland Security class that goes into more extensive detail about emergency preparedness; it’s taught by Stone on Tuesdays.

Students and staff can also take steps to keep emergency kits in their cars, offices and common meeting areas.

According to FEMA, emergency kits should include enough food, water and first aid supplies for three days. The kit should also include any special items like medication.

Whatever steps any student may take to inform themselves on what to do in the event of a disaster or emergency is a life saving one.

It’s up to everyone on RCC’s campus to be responsible for themselves and others safety.

Living in California is fantastic but it comes with the responsibility of being aware and prepared.

Recent events have shown that the right training and preparation can literally be the difference between life and death.

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