Commission Grills UC Officials On Campus Disaster Plans

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 28, 2006

Officials from UC Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Preparedness met with the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission and the public Wednesday to present the emergency aspects of the university’s Memorial Stadium project and take part in a question and answer session related to it. 

Tom Klatts, UC Berkeley manager of emergency preparedness, presented the overall UC campus emergency plan to address the concerns by the commission about the impact of the stadium with respect to disaster resistance.  

Klatts was joined by university planner Jennifer Lawrence and Richard Raymond, a representative of URS Corporation, the company that received the contract to rebuild the stadium. 

Gilbert K. Dong, Berkeley’s assistant fire chief/fire marshall told the Planet that the commission was responsible for making recommendations about the stadium’s emergency preparedness to the City Council. 

Doug Buckwald, who lives on Dwight Way, expressed concern about the increase in development on the Hayward Fault.  

“The fault goes right through the center of the stadium,” he said. “The rebuilding of a very dangerous structure in a very dangerous place only puts people at risk. Put the stadium where it belongs, in a seismically safe place.” 

He added that engineers have agreed that no amount of retrofitting would make the stadium structurally safe and in the event of an earthquake it would just split apart. 

Klatt said that talks were on going with UC geologists to look at construction possibilities that would make the ruptures less serious.  

Carol Shimmerling, a member of the public, said that when the university had wanted the deaf school to move out of the Clark Kerr campus, they had cited the existence of a fault underneath which was in actuality non-existent. So why were they saying that it was all right to build there once again when there was absolutely no reason to do so?, she asked. 

The plan for the Student Athletic High Performance Center was also discussed. According to Klatt, the roof of the center would be constructed in such a way that fire trucks would be able to access it in the case of a fire emergency.  

Jesse Townley, vice chair, questioned the school officials about their plans. 

In reply to whether the UC Campus emergency plan covered an earthquake on the Hayward, other Bay Area faults, or combination of faults, Klatt replied that the same plan applied to all although the challenges would vary in each case. 

With respect to addressing hill fire issues, Klatt said that UC’s Office of Emergency Preparedness would be able to set up an instant command center and offer treatment to those affected depending on the magnitude of the fire. Klatt also mentioned that since UC Berkeley did not have their own fire department, help would be requested from the Berkeley Fire Department. 

When asked about the impact of a potential radioactive/chemical release from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Klatt said it would depend on wind conditions and other related factors and also the direction of release of the toxic materials.  

He also added that although none of the labs had refinery or industrial quantities of any toxic material, even small fires in the UC labs in the past had been “horribly disruptive.” 

Klatt was also asked how the current UC emergency plan interacted with the planned four-part Southeast Campus Integrated Project during a major disaster.  

He replied that the university was currently looking at improvements in the current stadium plan and working on a project with graduate students in the planning department about how campus population oscillates during weekday and weekend classes. 

“The reason behind this survey is to develop a plan to evacuate students in sequenced degrees in the event of a major disaster. Disabled students will also have to be taken into consideration,” he said.  

When asked whether construction activities would interfere with emergency response in the aftermath of a major earthquake or fire, Klatt said that they would try to make provision for emergency response.  

Klatt also added that there was a contingency plan, in the event of an earthquake or a fire, to use construction equipment to “shore up collapsed buildings” and rescue those trapped.  

It was also mentioned that UC Police Department and the City of Berkeley would need to hire additional staff to control the traffic depending on traffic flow in key intersections.  

The UC Berkeley team also said that university police anticipated opening the Lower Jordan Trail for access by emergency personnel and residents in case of an emergency. However no vehicles would be allowed on the trail and the traffic would be pedestrian.  

With respect to adding a second access to Panoramic Hill, different ideas were discussed to create a foot-trail down Stonewall. 

When Sharon Hudson, a resident of Willard neighborhood, asked Klatt if there were enough shelters for students in the event of a large scale earthquake, he said that the number was not enough.  

In case an earthquake occurs in another area, the stadium could not be converted into a shelter because it did not meet the Red Cross’s needs, Klatt said.