Jul 09, 2020

UPD natural disaster plan includes technology, but no budget

Fresno State University Police Department has developed
a plan to respond to natural disasters on campus. David
Huerta of the University Police Department said that
precautions are being taken in case of a large scale
disaster such as the Loma Prieta earthquake
(pictured above) which occurred in October 1989.
Tom Van Dyke / McClatchy Tribune

California has been prone to several natural disasters including earthquakes, wildfires and floods. The Fresno State University Police Department is planning to use technology to inform students and faculty in case of any natural disasters.

“Fresno State has taken an all-hazards approach to any kind of natural disasters here on campus,” chief of University Police Department David Huerta said.

Many scientists are predicting a major earthquake in California, which they refer to as the “Big One.” A study done by the U.S. Geological Survey found that there is a 62 percent probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the next 20 years.

While most California residents worry about earthquakes, the Central Valley is more prone to other disasters such as fire, drought and flood, Huerta said.

“Different parts of the state will have challenges in terms of potential natural catastrophes, but here in the Valley, we’re more concerned with fire on our campus,” Huerta said.

“When a crisis of any kind occurs, we want to be able to tell everyone so that they can take a personal collective action to assist themselves individually and assist others collectively during the most critical moments,” Huerta said. “We try to be proactive in teaching students how to be safe here at Fresno State.”

Aside from technological information, no designated budget has been assigned to address a natural disaster at Fresno State.

Funds by the university faculty board are given to the University Police based on needs that are identified and prioritized by the department.

“What we do is we demonstrate the need. Then we prioritize it and then we fit it into where we are at,” Huerta said. “And then we say this is what we need to do and we move forward from that.”

Huerta affirms they have different technological methods of communicating with students if a natural disaster occurs on campus.

“We have an incredible amount of information methodologies that are redundant and back each other up,” Huerta said. “We feel that our obligation [for keeping the campus safe] needs to be tailored to the students and faculty.”

Engineering students at Fresno State are learning how to address natural disasters in their fields. Students in Civil Engineering 137, a class taught by Fresno State professor Fariborz Tehrani, are taught to analyze and design buildings for all types of catastrophes.

“Not only does this class teach about the technical elements of engineering, but it also explains the seismic background information. For instance, we consider how prone Fresno is to earthquakes,” Tehrani said.

“The class also teaches about ethical elements and the concept of designing buildings for two types of instances, small frequently occurring quakes and large quakes that can heavily damage buildings,” Tehrani added.

Another critical concept taught in other engineering classes are factors that California’s potential earthquake, the “Big One,” would affect when it strikes. Tehrani said cities within the San Joaquin Valley have less concern about the “Big One” because they will be less affected because of where they are geographically situated.

“The class integrates information and connects [the information] to how buildings at Fresno State are designed and constructed,” Tehrani said. “It also teaches on the big earthquake which will happen sometime in the future in California and Fresno.”

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