From the President's Desk

Ready to Assist

With everyone’s safety and well-being as our top priority, we asked faculty to provide accommodation to students unable to attend classes due to the evacuation.

The call came in the afternoon of Sunday, February 12th. I had been working at home preparing for the week ahead when a friend phoned to tell me the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway was eroding and at risk of failure. Alarmed, I turned on the television to learn a immediate evacuation order had been issued for residents living below the dam, just 25 miles south of Chico, and that tens of thousands of people were encouraged to evacuate to Chico, where an American Red Cross shelter had been established at the fairgrounds. 

I knew it was time to enact our University emergency protocol. I called our director of Environmental Health and Safety and asked him to convene the emergency response committee. Jumping into action, nearly 20 people assembled within two hours for a 7 p.m. meeting at the campus emergency operations center, with others tying in by phone.

Photo of President Hutchinson

Our first point of business was to decide whether the campus would stay open. After determining a relatively small number of our faculty, staff, and students would be affected by the evacuation, the decision was made to conduct business as usual.

With everyone’s safety and well-being as our top priority, we asked faculty to provide accommodation to students unable to attend classes due to the evacuation. Human Resources provided a similar service to impacted faculty and staff. Later, we would learn that approximately 100 faculty and staff lived in the evacuation zone, as well as 900 Chico State students.

The committee sat around the large conference table with live news broadcasts playing on three screens in the background. While keeping our eyes on the developing coverage, we began to discuss our next steps, in line with our emergency operations plan. The plan’s purpose is coordination—particularly between the University, City of Chico, the Red Cross, community groups, and county, state, and federal agencies—in order to strategically tackle communications, safety, logistics, operations, administration, and planning.

We quickly began a systematic review of Chico State’s capacity to provide services to assist the 180,000 people who were affected by the evacuation order. In line with federal emergency protocols and existing agreements with our regional emergency partners, we were ready to respond to shelter both evacuees and large animals but were not asked to do so, as there were adequate services provided by the county and the Red Cross.

As we conducted our review, I asked our Public Affairs staff to start drafting communication to our campus community. Messages were crafted and sent via email, our emergency text and phone system, and social media, with details about the evacuation order and impacts to campus. Two days later, on February 14, I was relieved when the immediate evacuation order was reduced to a warning. Although the situation remains arduous for some, I think we can all offer thanks to everyone who stepped up to work and serve others during this emergency. Read the experiences of Chico State community members who were on the ground on page 14. I am thankful that the situation did not reach a more dire state. But, as has always been true, Chico State stands ready to assist our communities in times of need. I’m so proud to be president of an institution with such heart. That is truly the Chico Experience.

—Gayle E. Hutchinson, President

 
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Alum Notes

CRISTINA RAMIREZ

CRISTINA RAMIREZ

('08) was promoted to assistant superintendent of Calcrete Construction.

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JOEY KOCHLACS

JOEY KOCHLACS

(’12) runs his own sustainable furniture business.

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BOB GEISER

BOB GEISER

('88) received a distinguished service award from the Boy Scouts.

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