As severe weather season approaches, Ohio State is taking a preventive approach and received StormReady certification this month from the National Weather Service.
The service’s website states that the certification “helps arm America’s communities with the communication and safety skills needed to help save lives and property — before, during and after the event.”
Julia Dian-Reed, a service hydrologist and meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said that the application process to be certified as StormReady is strenuous.
“The program was designed in mind to have communities and, in this case, universities keep weather awareness in mind … it means being able to monitor for different types of weather for which the university is vulnerable,” Dian-Reed said.
To receive certification, organizations must, among other requirements, monitor severe weather and flooding conditions and maintain a “24-hour warning point and emergency operations center.”
“The idea is that you’re ready 24/7,” she said.
OSU has plans in place to alert the university of severe weather, including weather radios, local media and phone apps, Bob Armstrong, the director of the Office of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention, said in an email.
“We also utilize a private forecasting meteorology service called DTN. This private service, combined with the National Weather Service radar, provides near real-time weather monitoring, including lightning detection,” he said.
The university also provides a Buckeye Alert system, which sends a text message to the campus community when action needs to be taken to remain safe, according to the Department of Public Safety’s website.
“Over the next few months, we will be modifying our auto-messaging,” Armstrong said, adding that a Severe Thunderstorm Warning email or Tornado Warning text is sent if any area in Franklin County is subject to a warning. “We will be modifying this so that the email and/or text will only be sent if the Columbus campus is in the direct path of the storm.”
Armstrong said the more selective messaging will tell the community when they immediately need to take cover. Additionally, Armstrong said Emergency Management and Fire Prevention plans to partner with the communications team to increase the use of social media to better communicate with the OSU community.
Dian-Reed said OSU has other plans in place for the safety of the campus during special events.
“The (Office) of Student Life said that the criteria is 300 students or more; if there is any type of gathering whatsoever, the organizers of that gathering have to have an emergency plan, and that includes what to do when it comes to severe weather. It covers the bases in multiple ways,” she said.
Dian-Reed said that OSU has had many of these safety precautions in place before its StormReady application, and that students and faculty alike can be involved.
“Have it in your mind, ‘If I got word of a tornado warning, where would I go?’ Having that in the back of your mind is always helpful,” she said. “Not only in university setting, but beyond and throughout your life.”