By Jennifer Krisch
On Tuesday, Ohio University's offices of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management and Information Technology will test a new notification procedure that the university would launch in the event of threatened flooding. The process will consist of telephone and e-mail alerts and is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Emergency Programs Coordinator Jill Harris, who is spearheading the effort, said individuals on the notification list will receive automated calls on their office, cell and home telephones and e-mails via their OAK accounts. In the event of a threatened flood, the automated message would alert recipients of predicted flood levels and where to obtain additional information.
Names and contact information on the Facilities Management flood notification list have been loaded into the university's event notification system, Harris said. Those on the list will receive an e-mail today announcing plans for Tuesday's test.
Department heads whose areas are located in buildings in the flood plain (listed in the university's flood plan policy) should check with Harris (740-593-9532 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to ensure they are on the list and that their contact information is up to date.
"It is especially important that new department heads contact the office," Harris said.
Under the flood plan policy, department heads in facilities in the flood plain are responsible for maintaining calling trees and notifying other department members. Those who do not receive notification during the test should contact her office.
Harris said the notification system will be tested annually, most likely each spring. Any member of the campus community can be added to the notification list.
Low-lying areas of campus in the flood plain could be affected if the Hocking River rises. Nearly 100 buildings, sports facilities and parking areas on or near campus are within the flood plain, said David Hopka, assistant vice president for safety and risk management.
Mick Harris, director of maintenance and operations, said the campus has not experienced major flooding since 1968. During that flood, water levels rose to the underside of elevated walkways on West Green. Since the rerouting of the Hocking River in 1970, campus flooding has been minor. On several occasions, cars had to be moved from parking garages in lower areas of campus.
Representatives of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management, the Ohio University Police Department, Residence Life and Planning and Implementation met this morning to discuss the university's flood plan policy.
Hopka said the policy, last updated in 2004, requires few changes. Designating the emergency programs coordinator and project manager for university planning and implementation as the people who monitor river levels and initiate notification is among the updates needed.
Jill Harris said her office would take into account multiple factors before issuing a flood watch or warning, including the river level and whether it is rising or falling.
"There's more to consider than just the levels of the river," Mick Harris said. "We have to ask, 'How much rain is falling? What is the rate of rise in the river? How long has it been above the breach points? What about drainage?' It's the river coming up versus the surface water backup."
All buildings within the flood plain already should have a flood plan in place. Jill Harris said departments without plans need to create and implement procedures, and existing plans should be reviewed and updated as necessary.
"The plans should include inter-departmental notification, a plan for how and where to move essential equipment and supplies, and evacuation routes for employees and students," she said.
Individuals who observe flooding on campus should report the exact location and severity to Emergency Maintenance at 740-593-2911 or the Ohio University Police Department at 740-593-1911 immediately. Environmental Health and Safety offers additional guidelines to follow if flooding is observed.