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SAFER Seismic Plans Accelerate

by Robert Sanders , Public Affairs
posted December 09, 1998

With Proposition 1A money now guaranteed and a windfall of cash from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the university is firmly on track toward its goal of creating an earthquake-safe campus.

Passed overwhelmingly on Nov. 3 by 63 percent of voters, Prop 1A will provide close to $70 million to complete the seismic retrofit of Barker and Wurster Halls and the older section of LeConte, and to begin work on the Archaeological Research Facility. A portion also will fund a permanent building on the Oxford Tract, dubbed seismic replacement building 1, that will provide "surge" space for offices and teaching as other campus buildings are vacated for retrofit.

"Barker and Wurster are the next two out the chute," said Edward Denton, the new vice chancellor for capital projects. Once their design is completed, probably within six months, construction can start.

Meanwhile, the $42 million FEMA grant announced Oct. 20 is pushing along the seismic retrofit of two chemistry buildings, Hildebrand and Latimer Halls; the Samuel Silver Space Sciences Laboratory; and Barrows Hall.

Funds from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program will cover major portions of both design and construction. Architects for all four buildings have been selected and construction firms are being chosen to join in the planning early in order to smooth the process of cost estimation and scheduling, Denton added.

One of the campus's nagging quesions -- after money -- has been where to relocate faculty, staff and students while buildings are undergoing seismic work. Wurster Hall residents, all from the College of Environmental Design, are expected to move into a complex of temporary metal buildings to be built on the site of Hearst Field, just west of Hearst Women's Gymnasium. One of the buildings also will house the Pacific Film Archive theater, which is being moved from the Berkeley Art Museum because it too requires seismic upgrading.

Denton expects the temporary structures to remain at least five years, housing various departmental offices as they are relocated.

Faculty in Barker Hall, mostly from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, will move to buildings around campus, including Mulford and Stanley Halls and the Wellman courtyard trailers.

Chemists in Latimer and Hildebrand Halls will most likely need to move to rented lab space off campus. Denton is concerned about making these temporary spaces a vital site for researchers and students. "We want enough occupants and activity so that these temporary spaces take on the character and ambience of the university -- so they feel like another campus," he said.

The complicated logistics of all these moves requires detailed long-term planning.

"To be successful we need to spend a little more money up front scoping out these projects," Denton said. That way, too, money slated for deferred maintenance can be rolled into the general retrofit project, or other needed upgrades can be performed at the same time. Early assessment also can highlight the need for additional fundraising for a given project.

When the SAFER program was announced in Oct. 1997, Chancellor Berdahl laid out ten goals for the campus. Under the leadership of Nick Jewell, who stepped in as interim "seismic czar," and now Denton, the campus has ticked off most of them. The process will continue for the next two decades, though, as the campus searches for the estimated $1 billion needed to complete seismic upgrades to the campus.


SAFER Emergency Response Planning

The original goals of the SAFER program included an emergency response plan for the campus, which has solidified under the leadership of emergency preparedness manager Tom Klatt. Klatt organized an earthquake drill this past June to test the functioning of an emergency operations center, and will expand the exercise next year in Quake '99 to seven department operations centers, ranging from Physical Plant to Environment, Health and Safety.

He also recently started a new program, the HOME Team (Helping Our campus Manage Emergencies) that encourages staff and faculty to volunteer to help in a disaster. The campus will provide free training in search and rescue, disaster first aid, shelter and relief and emergency communications, with the chancellor authorizing up to eight hours of release time for the necessary training.

To sign up, visit the Office of Emergency Preparedness web page at

Klatt notes that of the $1 million the campus allocated to the SAFER program last year, $100,000 has been dedicated to assist departments in preparing for quakes. Through EH&S's Q-BRACE program, departments can apply for cost-share funds to bolt bookcases or file cabinets, strap down equipment and computers, and deal with potentially deadly non-structural problems. Call 643-6394 for information. The deadline for applications is Dec. 15.

Finally, Klatt will be giving away 1,000 emergency AM/FM radios to building coordinators, emergency management area coordinators and department safety coordinators, as encouragment to tune into the campus radio station, KALX (90.7 FM), during an emergency.


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