To Students, Parents, and Family Members:
While speaking to a group of student leaders a few years ago, I commented that I do not believe we are disaster-prone necessarily, but that there certainly seems to be a price to be paid for this beautiful place in which we live and learn and work -- and that price seems to be the occasional challenge from nature. The mountains behind us and the ocean in front of us are the reason for our remarkable vistas; they are also geologic and natural reminders of the fragility of this environment. It occurs to me that students (especially our freshmen), parents, and families might like to have some basic information about University emergency planning. More specific information will be provided to students in convocation.
I suppose one of the advantages we have (although it feels like a row of battle ribbons sometimes) is experience. We know our campus well. We know the capabilities of our staff and how the physical plant will respond to extreme conditions. Our planning tends to focus on earthquakes, heavy rainfall, and fire. With the state of current world security issues, we also think about national and international emergencies, and so we have planned for those contingencies, as well. Our world has been changed by a number of tragic events including Virginia Tech, Hurricane Katrina, and the Tsunami in Asia. We study each situation carefully and determine how we should respond to better prepare for our own campuses and University community. I just want you to know that we think about these things and plan carefully.
Pepperdine University is not unlike a well-equipped, small city: we have firetrucks and trained first responders; we have capable electricians, plumbers, and carpenters on campus around-the-clock; we have emergency response personnel; we maintain a supply of food and water; we staff a health and counseling center; and we have a host of other resources upon which to call in the event of an emergency. We also have many faculty and staff living on campus who are present and active in assisting the University as it addresses challenges of any kind. In an emergency, the Malibu campus has always been a very safe place. The same is true at our international locations. A practiced and articulated protocol exists to evaluate risks and to make decisions in the best interests of the campus and its resident and commuting population.
In the middle of an emergency on one of our campuses there is a calm that news organizations often do not share with the public. In my view it is the difference between perception and reality. One of our greatest tasks is to transmit accurate information from and to and within the campus community. We hope to provide regular photos and information to parents and friends via the University’s home page on the Internet. Recent planning revisions, newly purchased equipment, and careful preparation place us in a state of readiness as we move into this new school year. We all will be happy if those same plans are merely dusted off after an uneventful year, but we must be ready. I believe we are.
Our first duty in an emergency is to care for students, personnel, and campus assets. At the same time our emergency response plans are put into action, our staff is trained to install phone banks, begin disseminating information on the Internet, open a message center, gather support personnel and, if necessary, open a previously planned relocation center. We have taken steps to be our own “first responders” until state and local agencies reach campus, and we are preparing to be self-reliant in the event that utilities and other infrastructure services are disrupted. Are there challenges we have not anticipated? Possibly. Are we better prepared than ever before? Absolutely.
Please know that we understand the need you have for accurate information and communication with your son or daughter, especially during emergencies. Do not hesitate to call the University and inquire. If the University‘s regular telephone service is disrupted, updated emergency information can be obtained from Pepperdine’s toll-free, out-of-area voice mail telephone number: (888) 286-5659. Additionally, emergency information is available online at the University’s Emergency Information Page http://emergency.pepperdine.edu. The only thing that will impair the communication plans we have in place will be those things for which we simply cannot plan, and over which we have no control. Throughout all of this, our every effort will be directed toward returning to safe and normal operations, including classes, as soon as possible.
I hope this information is helpful. We have begun a truly remarkable school year and look forward to completing it successfully, safely, and in a manner most beneficial to the student you have entrusted to us.
Andrew K. Benton