Saint Mary’s Action Response Team created to streamline emergency response at SMC.
By: Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
Fire danger signs are a familiar sight driving around Moraga and the surrounding areas. Though familiar, the current risk severity of extremely high is a reminder of the dangers of SMC’s beautiful, albeit dry and grassy, setting. With fire season in full swing, emergency preparedness may be on the top of many students' minds. In an effort to streamline emergency response protocols, SMC’s Action and Response Team (SMART) was created last month, putting a heightened amount of attention on emergency management for the SMC community.
SMART was created by President Richard Plumb in August 2021. The committee is co-chaired by Chief of Public Safety Hampton Cantrell and Vice President for Student Life Anthony Garrison with additional members in Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Communications, Information Technology Services, and Facilities.
Chief Cantrell describes SMART as “a college-wide committee charged with overseeing the preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery of a major crisis that may impact the college as a whole or one of its major units.”
As a co-chair, Cantrell is responsible for the implementation of SMART initiatives with other team members. He says that in the event of a crisis, team members will review, come up with an appropriate plan of action, and recommend the action plan to the appropriate college officials.
“The campus has emergency plans for fire, earthquake, bomb threat, Active Shooter, unhealthy air quality, to name a few,” said Cantrell. “The role of SMART is to ensure these plans are updated regularly and communicated to the campus community.”
In response to high winds or severe weather in high fire danger areas, like parts of Lamorinda or Walnut Creek, PG&E may shut off power to help prevent wildfires.
According to the PG&E website, “wildfire conditions across California have intensified due to increased temperatures and dryness. The combination of dry vegetation and high winds can uproot trees, blow branches onto power lines or create sparks if power lines contact one another. These conditions call for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS).”
These Public Safety Power Shut-offs or PSPS are often forecasted several days in advance and community members are often warned of possible or planned outages 24 to 48 hours ahead of time.
Cantrell says that SMC is preparing for power outages by maintaining a generator to supply emergency power in case of a power outage. This generator has to be tested periodically.
According to Michael Beseda, the Vice Provost of Enrollment at Saint Mary’s, despite receiving emails about generator testing and repairs going on, students do not need to worry about broken generators. Beseda says that the tests and repairs are to fix a mechanism that automatically turns the generator on if power on campus is cut, but that the generators still work if turned on manually.
In the event of a power outage or fire, Saint Mary’s community members will be notified via the LiveSafe app. For community members looking for additional information about emergency preparedness, Cantrell offers himself as a resource, “as Chief of Public Safety, I am always available to discuss safety and security issues with students, faculty, and staff. It is an honor to work for such a fine institution.”
Chief Cantrell offers the following tips for students to be better prepared for emergencies:
Building specific evacuation plans can be found at the following link: Incident Management | Saint Mary's College (stmarys-ca.edu)
For more information about PG&E Public Safety Power Shut-offs including preparedness checklists and PSPS explanations: https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/outages/public-safety-power-shuttoff/learn-about-psps.page
Ryan Ford '23,