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Earthquake Drill Provides Practice, Lessons

The SLAC Incident Command Post in action during the drill. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

More than 25,000 people from SLAC and Stanford participated in last Thursday's earthquake drill. Organizers said that the overall execution of the exercise went well and that the "education opportunities were tremendous" for emergency planners and managers.

"Many thanks go out to all the building managers, safety coordinators and communications team members for carrying out their roles successfully," said SLAC Assistant Fire Marshall and Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Lougée. At SLAC, 84 buildings were successfully evacuated and assessed, and employees were given permission to reoccupy them within a half hour of the emergency alert.

At roughly 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, employees received e-mail, phone and mobile notifications of the emergency drill through the AlertSU and SLAC911 systems. At 10:05, they were asked to duck, cover and hold for 45 seconds before securing their workplaces and going to their designated emergency assembly points. There, building managers or other appointed staff accounted for their areas and relayed the information to the Incident Command Post located at the southwest corner of SLAC Green.

In the event of a real emergency, building managers would have also reported any injuries, damage to buildings or other emergencies such as a fire. Based on the information received, priorities would be determined and members of SLAC's Emergency Response Team would be sent to the location to aid any injured people and inspect the building before allowing staff to return.

The SLAC Emergency Operations Center. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

The SLAC ERT was deployed for the first time, en masse, during the exercise, and completed 22 mock building damage assessments in less than 90 minutes, "an incredibly wonderful milestone," Lougée said. Facilities Division staff also participated in the drill for 90 minutes, assessing the status of key infrastructure and utilities. Another team of people representing multiple departments made up the Emergency Operations Center, headquartered in the Cypress Room in Building 40. The EOC staff took information from the field, devised an emergency action plan and communicated this plan to senior leadership as well as the Stanford main campus EOC.

Communications Office staff also drafted a general press release, and tested and modified both the emergency hotline (877-447-SLAC) and Web site ( in real time.

"From the lessons learned in our January power failure and opportunities afforded by exercises like this, we have moved a long way in the right direction toward the ability to manage a real disaster," said Acting Environmental Safety and Health Division Director Brian Sherin. An objective of every exercise is to identify opportunities for improvement–examples from this exercise included improving emergency communications with SLAC contractors and improved access to "as-built" utility control diagrams.

SLAC safety coordinators are beginning to formalize emergency processes and will continue to work with Stanford on developing best practices for emergency situations.

—Lauren Rugani
SLAC Today, October 13, 2010