Staying Safe During Public Chaos

civil unrest

The recent riots and chaos in Ferguson, MO remind us that public demonstrations and protests can spiral out of control almost instantaneously. Civil unrest is sometimes a taboo subject in emergency management because it’s unsettling, to some extent, to believe that a peaceful and functioning society and its people operating under a set of laws and principals can change so drastically. The term “mob mentality” is often used to describe this shift in behavior of the public when an overwhelming influence is present, whether good or bad. Many people that would normally not engage in illegal or unethical behaviors do simply because everybody around them is and there is a perceived lack of order and a temporary “new normal.”

Civil unrest/disturbance has been seen on both a local and national scale throughout history. Some of these events occur in isolated bubbles while others pose a chain reaction in other parts of the country. They can be organized or unorganized; planned or impulsive. It’s not uncommon for groups with a common purpose to use high profile trial verdicts, Supreme Court rulings and new laws as a means to initiate riots. However, we’ve also witnessed civil unrest following victories in professional sports, during parades/celebrations, at concerts and other events that are intended to be enjoyable for the public. Civil unrest has taken place outside of government buildings in large metropolitan areas, through the streets of small towns and even on the grounds of colleges and universities.

The UCI Police Department has managed many protests here on campus over the years and has policies and procedures for responding to these types of incidents. However, with each one it is recognized that no two events are the same and that anytime you have a large group of individuals in this type of a situation there is a potential for high volatility. As such, civil unrest has been ranked third on the campus Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) which examines the risk, impact and vulnerability of a variety of events. Therefore, we believe it is important for our community to understand what to do if/when they find themselves at the scene of such an event whether it is on campus or in their home community. Consider the following recommendations:

  • Use common sense.
  • Understand that these situations are volatile and can change quickly.
  • Do not get involved, add to the size of the group, or go near the event out of curiosity.
  • Leave the scene and find a safe place for you and your loved ones until the event is over.
  • If there is no law enforcement presence, dial 9-1-1.
  • Follow the instructions of law enforcement.
  • Stay informed by watching the news, social media, etc.
  • If you decide to evacuate, take your “go bag” and valued possessions. Then, lock your doors and windows before you leave.

12th Annual Zone Crew/CSAR Meeting


On Monday, January 12th the UCI Emergency Services Division hosted the 12th Annual Zone Crew/CSAR Meeting in Pacific Ballroom D of the Student Center. This meeting, however, was much different than those in the past as 140+ participants took their seats to engage in a multi-scenario tabletop exercise. This exercise was a discussion-based exercise which prompted all participants to work with their counterparts at tables to talk through what actions would be necessary in response to an earthquake, release of hazardous materials and an armed intruder scenario. Following each scenario, zone representatives would stand up and share with the larger group some of the issues, questions and processes identified during their group’s discussion.

Prior to beginning the tabletop exercise, Associate Vice Chancellor Paige Macias and Police Chief Paul Henisey each welcomed the group and thanked them for being there and contributing to the safety and security of the UCI campus community.   Anne Widney, the campus Emergency Services Manager, reviewed some of the major accomplishments of Emergency Services Division over the past year. Anne also introduced the emergency management initiatives that will be taken in 2015 and how Zone Crew and CSAR members can continue to stay involved and support these efforts.

Overall, the feedback received is that this was a successful meeting and a positive and fun way to engage our members. Training and education is vital, however, exercises help us understand our strengths and areas for improvement. This exercise, hopefully, provided this feedback to all that participated and we are looking forward to continuing to provide these opportunities to Zone Crew and CSAR members as we move forward. These two groups play an incredible role in our campus emergency management program and our mission could not be accomplished without them.

For additional information on Zone Crew and/or Campus Search and Rescue (CSAR) please contact Anne Widney at or 949-824-7147.


Get Ready; Stay Ready Campaign 2015

January – Communications Plan


Getting prepared for an earthquake or any large-scale disaster is kind of like building a puzzle in that there are many different pieces to it. Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin and each piece completed gets you one step closer to an adequate level of preparedness. Over the next year we will be focusing on a different piece of preparedness for each month in our “Get Ready; Stay Ready” campaign 2015. For this month, we’re going to look at developing a family communications plan.

A communications plan is an extremely important part of the “preparedness puzzle.” Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so you must plan for how you will contact one another or at least communicate your safety to one another if separated. Begin this process by printing and completing the American Red Cross Emergency Contact Card for each member of your family found at the following link:

At minimum, this card should identify the following once complete:

  • Contact information for each person in your family.
  • A pre-designated meeting location outside of your neighborhood.
  • An out-of-area contact person and their phone number(s).

The latter is particularly important because following a large-scale earthquake in southern California cell phone lines within the area will be congested and there is a strong likelihood you will not be able to contact your loved ones within the affected area. However, by designating somebody outside the area or, better yet, the state you will have a much chance of getting through and communicating your safety and location status to them. This out-of-area contact person can relay information to various family members about other family members and act as the liaison of information. Each family member should retain a copy of the Emergency Contact Card in their wallet, purse, backpack, etc.

Next, your family should develop a document with additional important information using excel or another application including the following:

  • Name, Date of Birth, SSN & important medical information (i.e. conditions, medications, etc.) for each person in your home.
  • Name of doctor, pharmacy, & veterinarian for each person and pet in your home including phone numbers and addresses.
  • A flexible reunification plan including where family members will meet if it happens while parents are at work or children are at school. Be sure to document the name of employer or school, address, and contact information. Parents should contact the school during the development of this plan to clarify what the school’s emergency plan is following a large-scale earthquake or other disaster while school is in session.
  • Phone numbers for the gas, electric, water and telephone companies.
  • Location of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and water heater in the home as well as the shutoff locations for all utilities.

A copy of this spreadsheet should be printed and retained by each member of the household. Remember, all of this information is no good if it’s stored on a computer and inaccessible during a power outage so be strategic in planning where and how each family member will maintain their copy. It is equally important that this spreadsheet be reviewed and information validated every six months when you change the batteries in your smoke alarms during the time change.

Emergency Preparedness “Stocking Stuffers”


With Christmas being less than 48 hours away there are still many of us tying up loose ends on our shopping lists. If you are still looking for the perfect “stocking stuffers” consider gift options that are practical, affordable and that will help ensure the safety of your loved ones. There are a number of emergency preparedness items that make excellent “stockings stuffers” which can still be purchased in common stores (warehouse and other retailers) today and hanging by the fireplace tomorrow night. The following are just a few examples:

  • Flashlights (with extra batteries)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Utility Tool/Knife
  • Hand Warmers
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Whistle
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Compass

You will, of course, want to purchase only those age-appropriate items for the kids but most of these would be an excellent complement to or beginning of an emergency “Go Bag” for those on your list. None of these items will make the “Top 10 Gifts of the Year” but they sure have the potential to be an invaluable resource when we need them most. So, consider the gift of preparedness as we close in on this Christmas and begin another year!


ZotRadio AM 1690


Are you aware that UCI has its own low-power radio system that can be heard from anywhere on campus? It’s called ZotRadio AM 1690 which broadcasts messages related to campus parking, traffic advisories, public safety and emergency information 24/7. ZotRadio is a jointly administered effort between Transportation & Distribution Services and the UCI Police Department to ensure that our campus community remains informed on these matters concerning their schedules and personal well-being.

Our campus frequently hosts large events that can impact traffic and parking congestion. Sometimes construction on a building or roadway can slow the flow of your intra-campus commute and make you late to a meeting or to class. These roadway impacts can be planned or unplanned so it is always a good idea to get the information ahead of time by tuning in to AM 1690. For more information on ZotRadio visit Transportation & Distribution Services @

ZotRadio is one of many tools on campus that will be a critical resource following a major earthquake as it will allow for the quick dissemination of information to the campus community on actions to be taken including evacuation routes, road closures, specific hazards, shelter-in-place or any other pertinent information. It’s not only a widely accessible resource but a resilient one as well that campus authorities expect to be functional following a significant manmade or natural event.

Perhaps you have noticed the Emergency Alert Signage for ZotRadio that has been installed on traffic poles at the following five main campus entrances:

  • East Peltason Drive and Pereira
  • East Peltason Drive and Anteater Drive
  • East Peltason Drive and Bison Avenue
  • West Peltason Drive and Mesa
  • West Peltason Drive and Pereira.

In an emergency, the yellow beacons will flash prompting the campus community to tune in to ZotRadio for further instructions. However, we’d like to encourage the campus community to increase familiarization with this resource by tuning in periodically and listening to one cycle of the recorded message. By doing this it will become more intuitive and automatic following an actual emergency.


If You See Something, Say Something


Have you ever been in a public setting perhaps a shopping mall, movie theatre or concert and saw something that just didn’t look or feel right? Maybe it was an unattended item or somebody taking unusual pictures that raised your suspicions. If so, did you do anything about it? Most of us are probably guilty at some point or another in our lives of brushing it off as “nothing” and failing to take action. But what if that suspicious “nothing” was actually “something” and your response could save lives or property?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the nationwide “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign in July of 2010 as a simple and effective program to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper authorities. Since then, many local law enforcement agencies have partnered with the DHS and each other to develop more localized versions of the same campaign. In Orange County we are fortunate to have an extremely advanced and collaborative network that responds to reported information called the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC).

This network of professionals is comprised of 11 agencies which work collaboratively to detect, protect and respond to numerous tips of suspicious activity every day in Orange County. This is accomplished through the collection, analysis and dissemination of information on all criminal risks and safety threats to law enforcement, fire, health, private sector and public sector stakeholders. The OCIAC invites the public to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement or directly to them by calling (714) 289-3949 or submitting a tip on their website @

The best way to recognize suspicious activity in a public setting is by having good situational awareness. Terrorist attacks are not impulsive but rather quite the contrary. They typically require very meticulous planning and preparation. The following link provides a list of what are called pre-incident indicators to terrorism as identified by OCIAC: Also, please keep the following practices in mind and do your part to make UC Irvine & Orange County a safer place to work, live and enjoy:

  • Take note of your surroundings.
  • Know the routine of your business area, home and community.
  • Look out for unusual conduct or behavior.
  • Be aware of suspicious objects, packages or vehicles in your area.
  • If you hear a threat by someone that could be credible, take it seriously and report it.


Healthy Habits During Cold & Flu Season


Getting sick with a cold or the flu is never fun. But it can particularly disrupt your life around this time of year by canceling vacation plans, missing or performing poorly on a final exam, or interfering with your holiday activities. The single best way to prevent the flu to begin with is by getting vaccinated (see October 1st blog post or UCI Student Health Center However, whether you choose to or not the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends the following best practices to keep you healthy and feeling good throughout the season:

  • Avoid Close Contact: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay Home When You Are Sick: If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Cover Your Mouth & Nose: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Clean Your Hands: Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, or Mouth: Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice Other Good Health habits: Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

For additional information on these practices as well as some good handout materials please visit the CDC @


Holiday Travel: Safety & Sanity Tips


In just a couple of days from now turkeys will be served over elegant settings, footballs will be tossed around in back yards and millions of people nationwide will travel great distances to join family and friends to give thanks. It’s difficult to believe that this special time of year has “snuck” up on us once again as we head in to the holiday season. Although enjoyable, the holidays can also bring about some unnecessary stress; particularly if you are one of the millions of people taking to the road, air or railway to celebrate these occasions. Sometimes the logistics of our plans are out of our control and we just have to deal with it. However, there are a number of proactive steps we can take to help make our travel as comfortable, efficient and least stressful as possible. The following article provided by the Travel Channel provides “10 Survival Tips for Holiday Travel” that will not only increase your safety but maintain your sanity as well:

If you are a holiday “road warrior” you must be particularly prepared to encounter any number of situations during your travel including angry drivers, uncooperative weather patterns (snow, black ice, rain, fog, etc.), hazardous road conditions, travel fatigue, and anything else that may pose a risk to your well-being. There are a number short videos attached to the following link that will help remind you of some best practices in these situations before turning that ignition over for your long journey:

In an un-related topic to holiday travel, if you are joining the craze of “Black Friday” this year be smart and use common sense. Every year there are a number of unfortunate stories about violence and people being harmed over the purchase of Christmas gifts which contradicts the spirit of the season entirely. You may want to consider “Cyber Monday” as an alternative to fulfill your gift shopping needs this year.

Lastly, the UCI Police Department extends a very Happy Thanksgiving to all students, staff and faculty this holiday weekend.

Campus Search & Rescue (CSAR) Welcomes New Graduates


The UCI Campus Search and Rescue (CSAR) Program wrapped up training series #18 last week; welcoming 29 new graduates to the team.  There are now well over 300 trained faculty and staff members prepared to help support the needs of our campus following a catastrophic earthquake or any other natural or manmade disaster. These individuals receive training on disaster preparedness, hazardous material and fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism awareness and workplace violence. In addition to now being a resource for the campus, even more importantly, these members are now better prepared to handle crisis situations they may come across in their personal lives as well.

The course is typically held every Fall, meeting twice a week from 12pm-1pm for 9 weeks; however, we may be shifting to a new delivery model in 2015. For more information on this please stay tuned to this blog and like us on Facebook @ More information on this will become available in the New Year.  If you are interested in taking this course, even if the current schedule mentioned above doesn’t align with your availability, please email Anne Widney, Emergency Services Manager, @ to be placed on the interest list. Again, congratulations to the new graduates and thank you for helping us make our campus a more resilient community.


Carbon Monoxide (CO): A Sneaky & Lethal Gas


Any natural or manmade disaster has the potential for knocking out our power infrastructure here in southern California. Whenever this occurs, most households in the U.S. turn to alternative sources of power for cooking, heating, or lighting for days and weeks in the aftermath of the event. These sources often include a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, charcoal-burning or wood-burning devices. A running vehicle is also a common source of post-disaster fulfillment of basic needs. While all of these can serve a vital role in “disaster living,” they all have one lethal characteristic in common: the production of carbon monoxide (CO).

Often called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and colorless gas created when fuels, such as those discussed above, burn incompletely. A person can sustain carbon monoxide poisoning by a small amount of CO over a long period of time or a large amount of CO over a short period of time. The symptoms of CO poisoning can look very similar to those presented by the flu, food poisoning and other illnesses and these are listed below. If you ever suspect that you or somebody else is experiencing CO poisoning it is very important to get fresh air and seek medical attention immediately.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

It is important to note that CO poisoning is not specific to just “disaster living” but rather it is just emphasized during these times as people must resort using unconventional means to fulfill their basic needs. Make no mistake about it that CO poisoning can be a hazard in day-to-day living as well. Every year fire departments nationwide respond to tens of thousands of non-fire; CO incidents in which carbon monoxide is detected. Unfortunately, on average, over one-hundred of these calls become fatality responses. In order to avoid CO poisoning, whether in day-to-day living or “disaster living,” the following best practices are high recommended:

  • Operate portable generators and any energy-producing devices outdoors in a well-ventilated location away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Never burn charcoal in homes, vehicles, tents or garages.
  • Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.
  • Never place foil on the bottom of a gas oven because it interferes with combustion.
  • Do not run your car inside a garage that is attached to your home, even if the garage door is open to the outside.
  • Ensure that carbon monoxide alarms are installed on every level of your home and outside every sleeping area to provide early warning for any accumulating CO. Treat these alarms as you should fire alarms by testing them every month and replacing the batteries every six months.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, quickly move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door and call 9-1-1.

For more information on carbon monoxide hazard mitigation and response please see the following two resources: