Art by Sybil Zhang
Natural disasters can turn an otherwise normal day into a test of survival. The devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, wildfires still burning in La Tuna, and fires recently extinguished in Malibu highlight the importance of being prepared for emergency situations. Students — especially commuter students — need to make sure they are informed on emergency procedures.
Pepperdine has various protocols in place depending on the type of the emergency. For on-campus students, the information is highly accessible.
Emergency protocol information is distributed to on-campus residents frequently and is posted in high-traffic and high-threat areas like residence halls and campus buildings, not to mention the blast emails explaining emergency protocol that get sent out to all Pepperdine student email accounts. However, students risk losing that vital information by relying on those blast emails that could get lost in the day-to-day communication streams of student life. Furthermore, commuter students risk not knowing the best ways to be prepared in case of an emergency.
Earlier this year, Pepperdine dealt with rain storms that brought flooding and unsafe driving conditions to Malibu and the surrounding communities. The storms caused road closures to many routes that commuter students, faculty and staff take to and from campus.
One instance, on Feb. 17, left many commuter students unsure what to do because classes were not officially canceled until 3:30 p.m. While Pepperdine advised on-campus students not to make unnecessary trips, the situation was a judgment call for commuter students who had to make a decision: Brave the weather or stay until the situation gets better?
This scenario presented the important responsibility that commuter students must take up — emergency planning. Students living on-campus at Pepperdine have the luxury of having a set emergency plan and many resources in case of an emergency. Part of the freedom of living off-campus is the responsibility to be proactive with individual emergency planning.
In the case of Feb. 17, the University Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) had sent a message on the Pepperdine Emergency website the day before that students should be aware of the potential storms that may affect university operations the next day.
There are some emergency conditions where a commuter on campus is safest staying put, however. Pepperdine’s protocol for wildfires, for example, is to have all students on campus shelter-in-place, or relocate to a safe building on campus until authorities deem it safe to move.
Pepperdine’s emergency website states that the Los Angeles County Fire Department supports shelter-in-place plans and will have a presence on campus in the case of a fire.
Though commuter students and others with cars may be tempted to simply drive away from the fire, this may not be the safest course of action during the emergency. Buildings on the Malibu campus are constructed with fire-resistant materials and situated at least 200 feet away from brush, according to the website. Taking shelter in these buildings prevents issues that may arise with vehicles getting stuck on closed or congested roads should students attempt to leave.
With limited routes to and from campus, it is likely that driving on these roads during a wildfire could hinder emergency responders or turn more dangerous for the driver and others if the fire moves unpredictably.
What students can do to be prepared
The best thing students can do to be prepared in case of emergency is to review emergency protocols and procedures and be familiar with what you should do in those situations. Ensuring that emergency contact information on WaveNet is up-to-date, saving Pepperdine’s emergency hotline number to one’s contacts (it’s (888) 286-5659, by the way) and checking out Pepperdine’s emergency preparedness resources are great ways to start.
The Department of Motor Vehicles also recommends keeping an emergency kit in a clear plastic container in your trunk in case of accidents or natural disasters. The kit should be tailored to one’s individual needs and the weather and risks in the area. For Pepperdine students, being prepared for wildfire and earthquakes is advisable.
Emergency kits can contain some basic first aid items, including bandaids, hand sanitizer, antiseptic and pain medication like Aspirin. Drinking water and non-perishable food (think canned food along with a small can opener or energy bars) are also useful in a number of situations, especially if one cannot return home during an emergency. An extra blanket, baby wipes, a flashlight and jumper cables are also on the recommended list of emergency supplies.
For more information on emergency protocol or emergency preparedness resources, visit emergency.pepperdine.edu. To donate to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, consider donating to charity funds like United Way of Greater Houston or The Greater Houston Community Foundation. For more donation options, visit this list published by National Public Radio (NPR).
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