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The golden state of California includes sunshine, beaches, and perfect weather. On most days this is true but what some folks forget is that California also presents the possibility of emergency natural disasters.

California is a unique state given its collection of natural disasters that have occurred in this region over time. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, California’s most common natural disasters include wildfires, floods, landslides, severe storms, earthquakes, winter storms, coastal storms, power outages, drought, and volcanoes. Between 1953 and 2019, California declared 315 major disasters, of which wildfires and floods happened with the greatest frequency.

Therefore, as a parent/legal guardian who may have a student attending college in California, it’s important for you to know your resources. California is made up of 3 main college-going systems including California Community Colleges, California State Universities, and the University of California. Here is some basic information that can help guide you and your student who may be attending college in California.

California Community Colleges

The state of California comprises 73 community colleges across the state. The Chancellor’s office guides the emergency preparedness plan for all colleges in this system and promotes the safety and well-being of their students, faculty, and staff.  There are standards and guidelines in place for such natural disasters which include preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery. Encourage your student to notice evacuation routes posted in classrooms and have them save emergency contact information for their college on their phones for easy access.

California State Universities

The California State University system comprises 23 colleges across the state and each campus maintains its own emergency management system that is unique to its campus size, location, and setting. Their main purpose is to preserve life and property when emergencies strike. Their emergency management plan is grounded in the same principles noted above for the California Community Colleges and has an emphasis on communication and training.

University of California

The University of California system comprises 9 colleges across the state and each campus maintains its own emergency management system that is unique to its campus size, location, and setting. Each campus includes the Office of Emergency Management which is responsible for maintaining campus-wide emergency plans and coordinating the campus response in case of an emergency. Of utmost importance, such plans also include considerations for the needs of campus community members with disabilities.

Across these three California higher education systems, the consistent advice provided to students and families includes reading the university emergency action plan, participating in evacuation drills, signing up for emergency notifications, participating in campus-wide trainings, being alert of surroundings, and reporting concerns to 9-1-1. Sending your student off to college has likely brought up many thoughts and feelings for you including your student’s personal well-being, academic endeavors, and finances, just to name a few.

Looking ahead, be sure to incorporate the topic of emergency preparedness in regular conversations with your student.  One thing you can do today is look up the emergency preparedness plan for the college that your student is attending and text the link to your student. Let’s continue to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.


Born in the San Gabriel Valley but raised in Moreno Valley, CA, Dr. Lisa Caldera is a first-generation college student from a low-income family background. She became the first person in her family to earn a doctorate and dedicated her research to undocumented college student experiences. She serves as the Senior Associate Dean leading a team of case managers who oversee crisis response, support, and resources for all Stanford undergraduates.