Great Shakeout exposes faulty CSUF alarms

In Campus News, News
Photo by Alvin Kim
Cal State Fullerton participated in the Great American ShakeOut Oct. 20 and aside from
preparing students and faculty for a potential quake, the drill brought to light problems CSUF could have in the event of a real emergency. 

According to the Southern California Earthquake Center website, California has a 99.7 percent chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years. Southern California is 37 percent more likely to have an earthquake compared to Northern California, which is 15 percent likely.

A mass text message was sent notifying students and faculty of the drill, telling students to drop, cover and hold. At 10:20 a.m. alarms were sounded in buildings to alert individuals. However, some students did not receive a text message, certain alarms in buildings did not sound off and cell phone reception was not found.

During a potential real disaster, lack of cell phone reception and faulty alarms are elements that could result in confusion and chaos.

CSUF emergency manager coordinator and exercise coordinator for the ShakeOut, Sue Fisher, explains why some students did not receive the mass text message that was sent.

“The emergency notification system uses the phone numbers with which students registered … cell phone reception is difficult to predict because of where the providers’ cell towers are and where you are in a particular building,” she said.

Fisher says students have the opportunity to change their information on She states it is an important link for students to take note of during campus emergencies.

When Fisher and her team tested the voice and fire alarms, they noticed one overrode the other and that circumvented the fire alarms.

“While it might have led to confusion during this drill, it did allow us to learn something that is important,” Fisher said.

Rommel Hidalgo, assistant vice president with Information Technology, explained that the lack of cell phone reception is due to the thick concrete walls that interfere and weaken the signal reception from nearby cell phone towers.

“Campus Information Technology is actually working on a proposal for a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to enable cell phones, mobile radios, pagers and other wireless devices to work throughout campus, no matter which building you’re in or which part of the building you happen to be located on,” said Hidalgo. “Unfortunately, until the DAS system is in place, cell phone coverage in certain areas on campus will continue to be spotty.”

Professor Freddi Bruschke was teaching a Geology 102 class in McCarthy Hall Room 637 when the ShakeOut drill began. She confirmed that in her classroom the alarm did not work. After the exercise she discussed the matter with her department chair, who was already aware of the issue and therefore reported it to facilities.

“My understanding, based on the two people with whom I spoke, was that the alarms in most of McCarthy Hall were working well,” said Bruschke.

Denisse Becerril, 19, a psychology major, was in Bruschke’s class at the time of the drill. She also confirmed the alarm did not sound off but she could faintly hear the alarms of the adjacent buildings.

She did not receive the text message that was sent before 10:20 a.m. notifying students and faculty.

In order to improve the cooperation of students in an earthquake drill in the future, Becerril stated that more information needs to be given beforehand, such as how long the drill is going to take, where people are lining up and general information on what will take place that day. However, she does agree that these exercises are helpful because they inform students and faculty of kinks in the system, such as the issues with the alarms.

“We live in an area where it can happen any moment so it is good to know where the exits are (in the event of an emergency),” she said.

When the “big one” hits, Fisher does have confidence that the campus is ready for an emergency. She said that even though every individual has a responsibility to be prepared, we are all components of the entire campus. She believes CSUF has students and faculty who are talented and dedicated enough to react in the correct manner if an earthquake does hit the campus.

“Talk to your students, friends and faculty about what you will do when the alarm sounds, or an earthquake strikes. If a gunman walks onto campus, do you know what to do? One cannot rely on ‘instinct’ for these situations,” Fisher said. “You must practice and learn how to respond correctly.”

For more information on preparing yourself and others, visit

CSUF alum launches alarm app

A post-disaster app titled “What R U up2?” is now available on iTunes.

The app was launched by Cal State Fullerton alumna Irene Long, one of the founding members of the ShakeOut campaign.

“What R U up2?” uses questions and large icons to construct a text message that communicates a person’s welfare status in the event of a natural disaster. Icons include “OK,” “traveling by ambulance,” “going to hospital” and “hurt or sick.” It can be used to locate loved ones using GPS coordinates.

Through the app, users can make an emergency contact list to communicate with the people they feel are most important. It is available in Spanish and English, and is user-friendly with little to no use of the QWERTY keyboard.

“Our greatest hope in getting a more disaster-prepared society lies in educating and training our youth and young adults,” said Long. “It is an especially useful tool for college students and their parents/families who live in different states.”

The everyday messaging ability of “What R U up2?” is designed to take up less bandwidth than phone calls so they are more likely to get through in the event of an emergency. Since it can be used everyday, users will become more familiar with the app so there will be no confusion or hesitation to use it when it is most useful.
The user can choose who they would like the message to be sent to. When there is an emergency, the message will automatically be sent to everyone in the emergency contact list.
“When we have our quake, 23 million people will be trying to call each other. This way you are just pushing a few buttons to communicate what matters most,” Long said.
If you decide to purchase this app, Long suggests you perform the setup so you can fully comprehend the app’s capabilities and how to build messages. The app is compatible with iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S.

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One commentOn Great Shakeout exposes faulty CSUF alarms

  • dobermanproducts3

    we know that false alarms can be frustrating and sometimes costly, causing many people to simply stop using them. We hope you don’t give up on your alarm system since they are so important for the safety and security of your home or business.

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