UC Berkeley gets ready for ‘The Big One’

Student volunteers acted as victims during an earthquake drill at UC Berkeley on Friday, Aug. 11. Photo: Ted Friedman

UC Berkeley put its disaster preparedness to the test Friday morning, carrying out a massive earthquake drill involving around 400 people and several sites across campus.

It was the largest of such exercises to be conducted at Cal, said Amina Assefa, manager of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which led the all-hands-on-deck simulation.

When the “earthquake” occurred at 8 a.m., the UC Police Department sprung into action, setting up a mobile command center at Memorial Glade. Administrators and experts analyzed information as it flowed into the Emergency Operations Center in Warren Hall, and responders attended to “injured” staff and student volunteers. At California Hall, a Crisis Management Team decided, in the realm of the exercise, to close the campus and cancel freshman orientation. (In reality, students have not yet arrived on campus for the fall semester.)

The drill participants, all UC Berkeley employees, were familiar with the response process, Assefa said.


“We believe very emphatically that you have to train before you can play,” she said. “Then, when you’re in the real thing, you feel like you have that muscle memory.”

The exercise went smoothly, according to Assefa, but there were some lessons learned. The OEM intentionally inundated staff with information, Assefa said, so they could identify shortcomings in the communication system. The participants also learned that they will need to prioritize which buildings will be inspected and reopened first in the case of an earthquake, she said.

Berkeleyside contributing photographer Ted Friedman documented the drill.

UC Berkeley earthquake drill, Friday, Aug. 11. Photo: Ted Friedman
Experts and administrators coordinated the response from the Emergency Operations Center in Warren Hall. Photo: Ted Friedman
Police set up a mobile command center at Memorial Glade. Photo: Ted Friedman
UC Berkeley earthquake drill, Friday, Aug. 11. Photo: Ted Friedman