Homework assignment: Disaster planning on campus
Abby Vincent’s old shoes are a big part of her emergency preparedness plan.
Vincent, a 21-year-old Environmental Planning and Policy major with an emphasis in Disaster Reduction and Emergency Planning, learned that the most common injuries following an earthquake are cuts on hands and feet from broken glass.
So, with those old shoes under the bed, Vincent can worry a bit less about whether the mirrored closet doors in her bedroom would hold up in an earthquake. She also keeps a few extra canned goods, bottled water and a hand-crank radio and flashlight in her Happy Valley apartment.
But Vincent, who just completed an internship with the city of Bellingham to work on community wide disaster planning, knows she’s done more than most students.
“I’ve done a lot for myself to prepare, just because it’s my job to get other people to,” she says. Families, who often have children, pets and property to take care of, are typically better prepared than students, “who are on their own and have the invincible mind-set,” she says.
But emergency preparation officials at Western hope to change that by encouraging students to do some disaster preparation on their own.
“My vision for our students is for them to be ready for what life brings, even if it’s a disaster,” says Gayle Shipley, Western’s director of environmental health and safety. The university has its own disaster plans, Shipley says, “but when emergency services are overwhelmed, each of us needs to be prepared. Even good responses take time to implement.”
So keeping at least three days’ worth of water and food on hand is a good idea for students and their families, Shipley says.
She also recommends students take a critical look at their living spaces – books and heavy objects up high could crash down on them in an earthquake. And families need to update their disaster plans if they haven’t done so since their student moved away to college, she added.
“I think the most important thing,” she says, “is making a start.”