October 27, 2011
Ohio University's Athens campus has been recognized by the National Weather Service as a StormReady® community.
Established in 1999, the StormReady® status recognizes institutions and communities as properly prepared for weather-related emergencies, such as tornadoes or flooding. According to the National Weather service (NWS), 90 percent of officially declared disasters are weather related, leading to severe injuries, death and property loss measuring into billions of dollars.
Ohio University is now one of only three higher education institutions in Ohio to obtain the StormReady® recognition, and the only university in the Charleston, W.V. National Weather Service region.
"This recognition by the National Weather Service illustrates the importance we place on the safety of our university community," said President Roderick J. McDavis. "It also recognizes our ability to notify and inform our community about weather-related emergencies should they occur. We are very proud of the hard work of our Scalia Lab, American Meteorology Society student chapter, and our Environmental Health and Safety Department, which have worked hard for a better prepared, well-informed, and safer Ohio University and Athens communities."
Officials from the NWS visited campus in September to review emergency preparedness and notification procedures. According to Emergency Programs Manager Jill Harris, many of the requirements were already in place, including the public warning siren system, campus-wide emergency text messaging capabilities and an established 24-hour warning point and operations center within the Ohio University Police Department offices.
Many of the university's emergency plans were already in place before a September 2010 tornado hit the Athens area. Though the university sustained no damage from the tornado, many areas of the county were hard hit and university emergency personnel and students jumped in to help. Harris said the experience encouraged university officials to make additions to notification procedures.
Becoming StormReady® took years of dedication from officials and students alike. Members of the student-led American Meteorological Society Ohio University chapter worked tirelessly to help obtain the designation, said Ryan Fogt, assistant professor of meteorology and director of OHIO's Scalia Laboratory for Atmospheric Analysis.
"Achieving the StormReady designation was a goal of the meteorology students for over two years," he said. "From working to obtain funding to training personnel across the University on the use of weather radios, this was an effort of nearly two dozen students. This is a benchmark achievement for them."
The student organization recommended the purchase of NWS weather radios linked to the region’s main office in Charleston, which sound an alarm when severe weather alerts are issued. Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit contributed $1,000 to the purchase of 20 radios placed in high traffic areas around campus such as dining halls, dorms and the student recreation center.
"Our plans and procedures were already in place, and through collaboration with our meteorology society, we have been able to raise awareness of these procedures across our campus," Harris said.
StormReady® recognition is valid for three years. Ohio University's status will be active until September 2014, at which time officials can apply for renewal.
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