Drop, duck and cover: How to respond to future earthquakes

In the early hours of Jan. 23, many UAA students were awoken by, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake 181 miles southeast of Kodiak. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami alert that was sent to the Anchorage area, as well as areas closer to the epicenter of the earthquake.


Jody Inman, associate director and operations manager for University Housing, Dining and Conference Services, said the earthquake wasn’t serious enough to launch an emergency response. If the earthquake had caused serious damage, Inman said officials at Housing Services would follow the UAA emergency operations plan.

“We have people who are trained here at housing who are called CERT members, and it stands for community emergency response team,” Inman said. “The CERT team members would start gathering and start to formulate a plan on how to see how many students are here, who needs help immediately. They’re trained for light fire suppressions, so if there’s any kind of fires they would get fire extinguishers and help put out fires.”

Inman said that Housing Services employees would take directions from the emergency operations center. In an emergency, another response team, the post disaster assessment team, would inspect university buildings and decide whether they were safe to reenter.

The emergency operations plan states that UPD officers will constitute a search and rescue team.

“Establish the police department as the Search & Rescue group under the Operations section. Responders could include the volunteer police auxiliary team, Campus-CERT, activated police officers, and the APD Search Team,” the plan states.
Inman said earthquakes in the winter are the natural disaster that worries him most.

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“If we lose heat, if we lose water, we’re going to be in a situation of having to try to get one of the buildings up that we can have heat in, that we can get everyone into and keep them warm and then worry about restrooms and how to feed them…That’s probably the one things that keeps me up at night more than anything else,” Inman said.

After the 1964 earthquake, building codes adjusted to consider earthquake safety.

“[The Main Apartment Complexes were] built in 1984, so the codes were a little more strict about how to build and what kind of structure you can use, and what kind of bracing and all that,” Inman said. “I would say that they were built to a better standard than what buildings were in 1964 when our big earthquake hit.”

The residence halls were built in the late ’90s and also follow a stricter set of regulations.

On the afternoon following the 7.9 earthquake, Natalia Ruppert from the Alaska Earthquake Center presented and answered questions about the earthquake through Facebook live.

“[There were still] lots of human effects. Like after that tsunami warning was issued there were evacuation orders in Kodiak, so people had to get up in the middle of the night, sirens were really loud, so I think it was still… it had a huge human impact.”

The Alaska Earthquake Center was delayed in its response because of a power outage that was occurring at its location at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

On Jan. 23, UAA published earthquake safety guidelines on the Green and Gold and reminded students to “drop, cover, and hold on!”

Last week’s earthquake comes as UAA arts students are putting the finishing touches on a new theatrical production called “Earthquake ‘64,” which debuts Feb. 9.