Emergency Management leads campus-wide evacuation drill Oct. 7

On Oct. 7, all faculty, staff, students and others will be asked to duck, cover, hold and then evacuate buildings and gather at designated emergency assembly points throughout campus. This may be one of the first times any university of Stanford's size has tried to conduct a campus-wide evacuation drill for an earthquake.

It's Oct. 7. Do you know where your local emergency assembly point is?

If you don't, you might want to learn before the university undergoes an evacuation exercise in which the entire Stanford community – including faculty, staff, students and visitors – will be asked to duck, cover, hold and then evacuate to emergency assembly points.

The Oct. 7 exercise, run under the auspices of the Office of Emergency Management at the request of President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy, is specifically designed to evaluate the campus community's ability to evacuate buildings to local assembly points and to attempt to account for everyone at Stanford after an earthquake.

According to Keith Perry, emergency manager, this may be one of the first times a university like Stanford has attempted such a widespread drill.

"I am a member of a listserv with about 300-plus universities across the country," he said. "I asked if anyone had done this type of exercise. I didn't receive a single positive response, but I did receive a lot of requests from people who want to know how our exercise works out."

Although the exercise assumes an earthquake scenario, Perry believes the drill is applicable to many emergency situations requiring an evacuation. In general, he hopes the exercise will result in a better-educated campus community about such specifics as ducking and covering, evacuation procedures, emergency assembly points and accounting for individuals.

The exact timing of the drill is being kept secret in order to mimic as much as possible the uncertainty of an actual emergency. The only clue Perry will offer is that the exercise will occur during regular class and business hours.

Perry and his colleagues have been planning the exercise since an April University Cabinet meeting.

"They pointed out that we have been doing emergency drills that activate the university's emergency procedures at the very highest levels," Perry said. "They asked for one that got down to a very personal level. I know it is their expectation that everyone will participate, whether you are in a class, in a meeting or otherwise engaged in the work of the university."

The exercise will begin with the activation of the AlertSU system, including the sounding of the university's seven outdoor warning sirens. Faculty, staff and students also will receive emails and phone calls through AlertSU, the university's mass communication system.

When the AlertSU outdoor siren system is activated and when telephone calls and email messages begin, everyone on campus will be asked to duck and cover under a table, desk or other sturdy structure that offers support from falling debris. Perry said that practicing ducking and covering at the earliest sign of an earthquake is important.

"The majority of injuries in actual earthquakes occur from things falling on people's shoulders, heads and arms – anything that is exposed," said Perry.

Everyone should hold that position until the siren ceases, which will be in about 45 seconds. At that point, faculty, staff, students and others should exit buildings and gather at designated emergency assembly points throughout campus to check in. The entire exercise is anticipated to take 30 minutes.

Among the biggest challenges Perry anticipates is accounting for the university's nearly 16,000 students. Students who are in their rooms at the time will be accounted for through a manual check-in at their residences. Those who are in class or elsewhere will receive a cell phone message requesting a simple keypad response to report in via the AlertSU system.

Faculty and staff will be accounted for through evacuation procedures that are overseen by their local departments and then reported to their local Departmental Operations Centers. Those results will ultimately be reported by the Departmental Operations Centers to the university's Emergency Operations Center.

More information about the exercise in general and specific information for staff, faculty and students can be found at the evacuation drill website.

In preparation for the October exercise, the Office of Emergency Management has also enhanced the AlertSU mass notification system. Under the enhancements:

  • Emeriti and affiliates can opt themselves into the AlertSU system to receive emergency notifications.
  • Faculty, staff, emeriti and affiliates can opt their personal phone numbers out of AlertSU, while still leaving them listed in the Stanford Directory.
  • Faculty, staff, emeriti and affiliates now have the ability to enter a second email address for notifications.

To take advantage of these enhancements, log in to the StanfordYou portal and click the "Maintain your directory and AlertSU emergency contact information" link.