April 08, 2010 12:00AM
In an effort to better protect students, faculty, staff and visitors in the event of severe weather, the university has updated its policies and identified storm refuge areas across campus. That includes a requirement that all activities cease when a tornado warning is declared.
Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary services, said the old policy didn't give people clear directions about what to do when the tornado sirens sound. The new policy, however, is clear about what happens when a tornado warning is declared.
"All activities occurring within buildings or university grounds will cease immediately and remain suspended until such time as the tornado warning has ended," the policy states. "All individuals present should go to designated storm refuge areas as available or to the lowest level of a building to seek a protected inner hallway or area that does not have exposed windows. Building team leaders, area supervisors and managers or maintenance supervisors will utilize available staff to occupy 'key locations' (stairwells, doors, etc.) and guide people. Large open areas with wide roof spans such as auditoriums, gymnasiums, cafeterias and ballrooms must be checked and cleared of people."
Signage designating storm refuge areas has been installed in every building on campus, based upon an assessment completed last year by a team of engineers, Erwin said. "Everyone should familiarize themselves with those areas."
The old policy, Erwin said, placed an unfair burden on faculty and persons in charge of meetings, events and activities.
"They had to decide whether to continue with their activity and possibly risk the safety of everyone in the room or to suspend and try to find shelter that at that time had not been identified," Erwin said. "The new policy, combined with the designated storm refuge areas, gives clear direction."
The updated severe weather emergency plan, with additional information and detailed instructions, may be found at http://www.pittstate.edu/office/president/policies/severe-weather-emergency-plan.dot.