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A recent letter to the editor took issue with the suggestion from our November 1990 article, “Coping with a quake,” indicating it “is seriously misleading and should be corrected….” We stand by our assertion that patrons should take important belongings with them as they evacuate a building. Life-threatening situations require immediate evacuation and one’s personal health and safety should be a priori concerns. However, the situation encountered in the Clark Library was clearly not life-threatening. Students doing research on the lower floors of the building had to be cajoled from their places and told to leave.

During the past year our campus has had two major emergencies, an earthquake and a dormitory fire. Campus Emergency Procedures distributed earlier this year support our position: “Leave by the nearest safe exit when you hear the building emergency alarm or if you are told to do so by University Police or a Building Emergency Team member. Take keys, books, wallets or billfolds, prescription medicines and important personal belongings with you in case the building cannot be reentered immediately.”

It is crucial for people to take essential personal belongings with them, but this should not slow the evacuation process. Without prescription medicine or keys, one’s health may quickly deteriorate and/or one may be unable to get home. Over and over again, authorities responsible for emergency response stress that we need to be prepared to take care of ourselves for at least 72 hours after the disaster occurs. Thus it will not always be possible, as the author suggests, to wait until “responsible authorities” arrive to return into the building.

It is also interesting to note that state library employees can be conscripted into civil service, thus becoming those very “responsible authorities.” This may entail up to 72 hours at the place of employment if the situation is critical.—Linda Johnson and Jeff Paul, San Jose State University

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