050818 Hancock board

Director of Human Resources Kelly Underwood, left, introduces two members of the district's ad hoc emergency preparedness task force: Rex Van Den Berg, plant services director, and Roy Dugger, emergency services specialist for Santa Maria Fire.

The Hancock College board of trustees on May 8 received a report on the state of their emergency response protocols and update on the consideration of a bond measure for the November 2018 election.

"We have locally so many examples why planning is vital," Kelly Underwood, director of human resources, told the board during her presentation.

With the Thomas fire and 1/9 Debris Flow still at the forefront of the county's collective consciousness, Underwood said she reached out to faculty and staff at Westmont College — who were not only affected by the fire and mudslides but also successfully addressed and mitigated impacts from the Tea fire in 2008 — for advice.

"This last graduating class from Westmont College was evacuated five times," she said. "[They] have all types of experience dealing with this."

Hancock currently has several policies and procedures in place to guide students and staff during localized incidents (fires, power outages, active shooter situations) and widespread emergencies (earthquakes, nuclear incidents at Diablo Canyon). Though procedures fall in line with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Standardized Emergency Management System and National Incident Management System requirements, the policies need to be brought up-to-date — a process Underwood called a "moving target."

Underwood has contacted various campus staff, allied agencies and outside parties to voluntarily evaluate and contribute ideas toward improving the emergency plans. A brief overview of their suggestions indicates a need to include plans for the Santa Maria campus' student center, children's center and facilities used by PCPA — areas Underwood said need an individual focus.

The college should also develop an active shooter exercise for staff, Underwood said, and determine the funding and viability for hiring a permanent emergency manager. 

"Things change," Mitch McCann, Hancock's director of Law Enforcement Training and member of the district’s ad hoc emergency preparedness task force, said prior to the meeting. "Our buildings change, our campus changes, so for us, it's important we keep up with those so our staff and students are safe and know what to do in case of an emergency."

Trustees also received an update to the possible construction bond measure that may be placed on the November 2018 ballot. According to College President Kevin Walthers, who presented the board with the idea in January, trustees will vote next month to authorize or deny the placement of a bond measure on this year's midterm ballot.

The potential $75 million bond would be utilized to complete projects financed by Measure I — namely the forthcoming Fine Arts Complex — and address maintenance issues at the Athletics and Physical Education buildings.

"This is not a lack of maintenance," Walthers said of facilities. "This is us being able to keep it going against all odds. These buildings have more than served their useful life and we need to address that [they] are an issue."

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Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.