Fallen tree raises concern for student safety

A student walks past a large tree on campus March 1. A tree fell on the President’s Home Feb. 12, raising questions about other trees and student safety.

On a hot summer day, trees are usually a nice outlet to provide protection from the sun.

However, many people do not think to check the structure of a tree before taking a break underneath.

A tree fell on the home of UNA President Kenneth Kitts Feb. 12. Nobody was hurt, but this raised questions to how safe the trees are around campus and if they provide a threat to students.

From 1995 to 2007, falling trees or limbs killed around 407 people in the United States — 41 percent of them in a thunderstorm, and another 35 percent in high winds alone, according to Kent State University.

Students should always be aware of their surroundings, especially after a storm, said Paul Graham, supervisor of Grounds Maintenance at UNA.

“The chances of a tree actually falling on a student is highly unlikely and hasn’t happened in UNA history,” he said. “However, students should call Grounds Maintenance if a tree looks questionable.”

Freshman Kat Patrick said she is observant of the trees on campus after storms because she does not want a limb fall on her.

“I think students should be observant of larger trees, especially after a tree fell on the President’s Home,” she said.

Graham said there are factors that indicate if a tree may fall.

“A tree falling is not an exact science,” he said. “Factors indicating if a tree will fall include the structure of the tree, the rooting and if rainfall causes the soil to expand. There is a multitude of areas that are examined.”

Graham said days when there are multiple storms with high winds are the most likely times a tree will fall.

“After a storm passes, I look for any damages on the trees,” he said. “Trees that are leaning, have cracks in them and have multiple one to two-inch limbs on the ground raise red flags.”

Inspecting the trees is not to create fear for students, but it is people should be observant because limbs do come loose, especially after storms, Graham said.

He said Grounds Maintenance monitors and maintains every tree on campus and pays special attention to ensure the larger and older trees are healthy.

Freshman Jay Stutchman says he is never too concerned about tree safety around campus.

“We have great Grounds Maintenance that keep our campus beautiful and safe,” Stutchman said.

Junior Patrice Berry said she pays more attention to the squirrels than the trees.

“I didn’t realize the importance of Grounds Maintenance,” she said. “It does make sense for students to be careful after storms, but I personally just never think about it.”