Earthquake scenario to put Stanford on red alert

The university's biennial emergency preparedness exercise will take place on Feb. 5. The scenario for the drill will be a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, striking along the Hayward Fault at 10 a.m.—disrupting utilities and transportation systems, leveling structures throughout the area, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

As in years past, the Faculty Club will serve as the campus's Emergency Operations Center (EOC), where teams charged with managing various aspects of a disaster—operations, logistics and finance, intelligence and planning, and public information—will rehearse their respective roles and responsibilities. A command team that includes the president and provost will be stationed at the EOC as well, while Stanford's chief of police serves as the incident commander.

In addition to testing the university's response during a crisis, the exercise also allows emergency planners to identify any areas in need of improvement. In an actual emergency, success will depend on quick and smooth communication between the teams and with about two-dozen satellite operation centers (SOCs) that would be activated throughout the campus.

According to this year's scenario, the earthquake will occur at 10 a.m. and hundreds—and possibly thousands—will have died in vehicle accidents and building collapses. When the exercise begins at 8 a.m., the teams will be faced with more than 500 people in need of hospitalization, with makeshift shelters supposedly springing up in the vicinity and citizens initiating their own rescues as they await professional assistance.

To simulate the chaos and high-stress environment of an actual emergency, the exercise typically involves some unscripted elements and role-playing on the part of participants—pretending to be victims or frantic parents, for instance. The drill will conclude at 11 a.m. and be followed by discussions about lessons learned and where improvements should be made.

Major areas of concern for emergency planners and participants include information flow about such things as casualties and supply demands, technological details, response times and the effectiveness of the university's various emergency-notification tools. Those include an emergency hotline (725-5555) and website (http://emergency.stanford.edu), radio broadcasts over KZSU, press releases and live press conferences.

Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital set up their own command center, which the university treats as a partner EOC during an emergency. The hospitals also will be participating in this year's exercise.

A few days before the drill, emergency responders will have the option of participating in field exercises on Jan. 30. That day, a mock medical triage will take place at Vaden Health Center in cooperation with the university's hospitals, and the Stanford Community Emergency Response Team (SCERT) will practice search-and-rescue procedures.

In addition, Building Assessment Team (BAT) members will put their training into action by surveying supposedly damaged structures. Most members are volunteers from the staff at the university.

For more information about the Stanford Emergency Management programs or to volunteer for BAT or SCERT, visit the Environmental Health and Safety website, http://ehs.stanford.edu, or send e-mail to preparedness@stanford.edu.