Hurricane season may be just around the corner, but things are looking sunny at Florida State University with regard to severe-weather planning.
FSU this week received a "StormReady" certification from the National Weather Service, signifying that the university is well prepared to safeguard its people and property from severe weather. FSU is the first university in Florida— and one of only 16 in the United States—to be recognized with the StormReady designation.
"At FSU, our priorities include not just providing a world-class education for our 40,000 students but also ensuring that those students can pursue their studies in the safest possible environment," said President T.K. Wetherell. "The StormReady designation simply affirms our proactivity in working to protect all of those people who have made FSU their educational home."
StormReady (www.stormready.noaa.gov) is a program started by the National Weather Service in 1999 to help communities, universities and other organizations guard against the ravages of Mother Nature. According to its Web site, "StormReady communities are better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of severe weather through better planning, education and awareness. No community is storm-proof, but StormReady can help communities save lives."
In order to receive the StormReady designation, FSU had to meet several criteria, said Dave Bujak, emergency management coordinator for the university.
"We installed 80 NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) weather radios throughout the campus to keep faculty, staff, students and visitors safe when threatening weather approaches," he said. "The best way to keep people on campus informed is through the quick and easy dissemination of information that the weather radios provide. And with the 2007 hurricane season beginning this week (on Friday, June 1), there is no better time than the present to be prepared for severe weather."
Preparing the application for the StormReady certification was a team effort, that was led by FSU students, Bujak said. Charlie Woodrum, who is an FSU meteorology student and president of the North Florida chapter of the American Meteorological Society, organized the application and distribution of the weather radios with the assistance of other AMS student members and FSU’s emergency management team.
The StormReady certification was just one of several campus safety initiatives that Wetherell and other university administrators discussed during a briefing today with Ruben Almaguer, deputy director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Another major effort that was recently completed was the installation and testing of voice-capable sirens that will enable FSU officials to provide instantaneous severe-weather alerts and other warnings to students, faculty and staff on the main FSU campus and in surrounding areas.
"The sirens are located at Mike Long Track on Chieftan Way, in a parking lot at the University Center, and between the Johnston Building and Landis Green near the center of campus," Bujak said. "In the event of a weather or other life-threatening emergency, we would be able to choose from a number of siren sounds or broadcast an audio message with specific instructions—and we could target specific areas of the campus as needed."
The sirens were installed during the spring 2007 semester and were tested briefly last week, Bujak added.
"Anyone who is outdoors, either on campus or in some surrounding areas, should be able to hear them quite clearly," he said.
Other campus-safety initiatives include:
- Upgrades to the university’s text-messaging and "blast" e-mail capabilities to enable university officials to send information out quickly on weather or other emergencies.
- The establishment of two emergency operations centers on campus—one at the FSU Police Department and the other in FSU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety.
- The holding of "SkyWarn Spotter" training sessions at the FSU Police Department to educate students and staff in identifying severe weather.
"There’s no way to prevent severe weather or many other emergencies from happening," Wetherell said. "But we can be prepared in the event that they do occur. At FSU, we’re ready."