Faculty, students, staff question emergency readiness

By Guadalupe Barriga and Ivan Cazares

Students, staff and faculty are concerned about their safety and question whether East Los Angeles College is prepared for an emergency. The issue was discussed during Thursday’s American Federation of Teachers meeting and Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting.

ELAC was placed under an unofficial lockdown last week when the Monterey Park Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to a rumor of an active shooter on campus.

Faculty’s main concern was the lack of communication during last week’s threat.

There wasn’t a message sent out to students or faculty to inform them on the situation. However a message was sent out telling people that the situation was resolved. “We had no idea what was happening,” Adjunct Representative Randy Adsit said.

Classes in the C2 complex were told to remain inside and lock the doors until the search was over while other students were turned away and told that classes were canceled.

Teachers continued with their classes unaware of what was happening. Janitors were informed through their radios. Faculty suggested to Martinez using similar  equipment to communicate in future emergency situations.

The senate agreed with the Fire Technology Program Coordinator Jason Hosea’s proposal to develop an emergency response plan that everyone is aware of.

He suggested appointing a disaster preparedness coordinator with experience and developing an emergency response team. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are schools with robust programs we could use as examples. We have emergency response experts on campus,” Hosea said.

He also suggested periodic training for faculty and staff. He pointed out the advantage of having emergency response experts such as himself and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on campus to help     develop such a plan.

“It’s not just active shooters. We need a plan for fires and earthquakes,” Hosea said.

Senators also mention the South Gate Educational Center’s lack of loud speakers around campus. Martinez said that if an accident were to happen at the South Gate campus, the agreement is for South Gate Police Department to take care of everything.

“The information they (police) received was vague,” Martinez said. “We are taking precautions. I didn’t send out an alert to avoid spreading panic.”

Students and professors called Martinez’s decision to not place the school on lockdown irresponsible and dangerous.

A large number of students were unaware of the potential danger and continued to walk around campus.

“We tried to go back on campus, but they (deputies) weren’t letting anyone in. They stopped us to see who we were,” student Jose Velazco said. Velazco was by the south gym with a group of friends.

According to President Martinez, the Monterey Park Police made the decision to tell students to leave campus without informing him.

Professors such as Political Science Professor Jerry Hernandez suggested changing the college’s policy in response to the incident. This change would mean that an immediate lockdown would be issued if campus personnel observe weapons drawn on campus. Martinez was questioned on the effectiveness of the school’s emergency alert systems.

Martinez said more buildings  will soon have speakers and faculty will have their own key to lock the doors in case of a lockdown.

Hernandez brought up a similar incident that occurred during the summer when administration failed to enforce a lockdown. “Six months have passed since the summer when we had the false alarm, and in all that time we haven’t gotten any closer to the speaker problems,” Hernandez said.

Martinez assured that in future emergencies he will instantly place ELAC on lockdown to secure the safety of its students and faculty.

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