In a new history class called “Disaster!” at UAA, college students briefed Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and UAA Chancellor Dr. Cathy Sandeen on the November 30 earthquake response, and what can be done better next time.

The students compared the November earthquake to the 1964 earthquake and examined how people prepare, react, rebuild and respond after disasters like tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes. 

A large part of their coursework involved examining the effects of the November 30 earthquake.

History department chair and professor Paul Dunscomb taught the new experimental course and says the students did a lot of research comparing it the 1964 quake. However, students say it was like comparing apples to oranges because the two were so different. 

When asked what was done well during November's earthquake compared to the one in 1964, one group of students said communication was key.

"It comes down to public safety. That's the big take away of all of this," said UAA student Dylan Lewald. "Communication to the public to tell them where it’s safe to go, what areas to avoid, evacuation routes, just ways for the just the public itself can communicate with each other."

Other concerns were about the only two highways in and out of Anchorage – New Seward Hwy. and the Glenn Hwy. The students believe if a bigger earthquake happens, it could be a problem for people trying to evacuate or get access to supplies. 

Mayor Berkowitz says the briefing was an eye-opening experience.

"It's great when you see all of these people who have new energy and these fresh perspectives," he said. "So their ideas about what we can do with effects of climate change, the impacts of communication, these are all ways of stimulating our thinking of what we can do better in the very likely contingency that there is a next time."

As part of the course the students completed Natural Disaster Awareness for Community Leaders training with FEMA. Both Chancellor Sandeen and Deputy Fire Chief Michael Keene joined students for that training and received their certificates. 

Tuesday's exercise was designed to give students experience in providing information to community leaders so they can create policies and decisions regarding disaster response. 

 

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