The water from the broken pipe emerged from under auto bay lab inside the Automotive Technology Department. (Photograph by Anibal Santos)
The lack of a Public Announcement system as a part of campus is just one aspect of a larger communication problem at Saddleback College. Not only did a lack of effective communication during the water main break leave students unsure if they should attend their next class, wait around, or go home, but it left faculty and classified staff questioning their next steps as well. Students, unaware of what was taking place, turned to their instructors for information, but they had none to give, causing students to linger long after they were expected to go home, leaving instructors unsure of whether they should wait things out and remain to teach their classes.
Though the administration intended to evacuate students from the school before classified staff could be released to leave, many staff members either didn’t receive any message on what to do.
When the LRC Building was constructed, the builders did not install a PA system, which would bring issues for bringing awareness to students on potential campus emergencies. The college used the desk phone speakers to announce the Great California ShakeOut and the water main break situation, which proved itself to be ineffective because the volume was too low to hear beyond a short distance from the desk speaker itself.
“Most of us didn’t know about it because none of us have been notified of it. In the LRC, the alarms never went off,” said Librarian Ana Maria Cobos about the miscommunication problems that arose from the Great California Shakeout
Certain students complained about what a poor job the college had done informing the student body about the closure. Most students became aware of the situation by word of mouth from their peers, making the emergency email sent by Saddleback a lost cause.
What if this was a real emergency? What would happen if there was a shooter on campus? A former Saddleback College computer science major, Ali Syed, went on a shooting rampage off-campus injuring three and killing three people just last year before putting the gun to his own head taking his life. We just had Elliot Rodger from Santa Barbara City College go on a killing spree at UC Santa Barbara.
The alternate venues of disseminating information through the college weren’t efficient enough on their own. An alert text message, which all students should have received unless they specifically opted out at registration, should have been sent around the same time the announcements were being giving over the phone speakers, said Director of Marketing and Communications Jennie McCue.
However, many students, faculty and staff said they either didn’t receive a text message, or they received them at different times then others did, leaving some uninformed and still confused while others seemed to know what to do.
These flaws could have been alleviated in some way had the initial informative alert system through phone speakers, been loud enough to hear and available across campus in the first place. In its current form, the speaker system is not as efficient as it should be. A PA system could remedy that.
Though communication did become more coordinated and available as the day went on, an initial response in the face of a crisis is the most critical and, arguably, influential in determining an outcome in the face of actual danger. In this sense, Saddleback has fallen short of showing collegiate preparedness and ensuring student safety.
With all the current construction happening on campus and the future renovations happening next year, it would be a better benefit for the college to install a PA system. It is hard for the college to use lack of funds as reason for not having one, take one walk around campus and you will see or hear construction vehicles. The college has the capacity to make just about anything happen, it is just a matter of making it a priority.