Cedar Fire Redux?

It was like a scene out of … well, 2003. Confused students
wondered around campus, as administrators scrambled to get the word out that
campus was closed. Except it was this morning, shortly after 8 a.m.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In the aftermath of the
2003 Cedar Fire, Acting Chancellor Marsha Chandler was heavily criticized for
the university’s incoherent response to the emergency.

Since then, the university has insisted it has fixed things.
After the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the university assured everyone that it’s
own house was in order.

"Although this is not the type of event that you can
ever be ready for, I want to assure you that UC San Diego has developed
emergency response plans if we were to face a similar crisis," Chancellor
Marye Anne Fox announced. "Our Business Affairs, Emergency Response, and
Police Services units conduct frequent and detailed exercises to prepare them
to respond effectively to crises and catastrophes."

Last week’s emergency response exercise was hailed as a
raging success.

Yet shortly before 8 a.m. this morning, hours after Mayor
Jerry Sanders ordered parts of the city evacuated and asked everyone to keep
the roads clear in case of major evacuations, the university was silent. Its emergency
status Website hadn’t been updated since 11 p.m. the night before.
Students on their way to campus learned that the university was closed shortly
after 8 a.m. — from their shuttle drivers. And those calling the university’s
much-trumpeted emergency hotline after 9 a.m. were still told that all was
well, and that campus was open.

"Everything is OK, Marye Anne Fox is still
asleep," a faculty member joked to a group of discombobulated graduate
students waiting around on campus to see if their class was meeting.

In the coming days, much attention will focus on fighting
the raging fires, and providing help for the evacuees. But in the weeks ahead,
the question of how much UCSD really did learn from 2003 will likely be on many
people’s minds.

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