Earthquake on Earthquake Awareness Day Spurs Three Contradictory Emails About What to Do in an Earthquake

The irony of an earthquake on Earthquake Awareness Day was not lost on any of my Boalt Facebook friends, but things continued to get better as the administration sprang into action -issuing not one, but three emails about proper earthquake procedure. (For those unaware, it was a 3.9 on the new Richter scale about 6 miles beneath the Clark Kerr campus). First there was some controversy about whether or not the earthquake sirens earlier had gone off properly (it was unclear to me if these sirens were meant to simulate an earthquake or respond to one – if it's the latter why didn't we hear them after the actual earthquake about four hours after the drill?). But, things got better when the first email stated, "If you stand in a doorway, brace yourself against the frame and watch out for a swinging door or other obstructions. Avoid glass doorways (such as the doors to Steinhart, the doors leading from and out of the Main Reading Room into the old library lobby)." Apparently, this rubbed some earthquake response enthusiasts the wrong way and individuals wrote in to say that the logic for standing under a doorway was shaky and that, "you should not seek out a doorway in an earthquake if you can avoid it. Doorways are not necessarily (as was once thought) strong spots in buildings." Before anyone knew it, we had an earthquake procedure rumble on our hands. This advice left doorway safety proponents in an unstable position, and so there was more feedback, which lead to a third email where the topic of standing in doorways was explored further, "The doorway issue depends so much on what kind of doorway you are in, how strong the wall is that the doorway is in, and how strong the door frame and reinforcement is. But of course this is information that you rarely have when you are deciding whether to leap into a doorway during an earthquake. " The conclusion (for now) is that unless you live in an Adobe house, stay out of those doorways. Personally, I'm a little rattled that this information wasn't properly sorted before the earthquake that happened on Earthquake Awareness Day.

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