Officials look to enhance storm safety on campus, through Lauderdale County

(From front to back) UNA students Payton Edmiston, Bert Pena and Katelyn Jarrell of Alternative Break Board help chop wood from damaged trees from the April tornadoes during fall break in Harvest Oct. 8.

UNA is in the evaluation stage to receive the Storm Ready award after preparing the campus for storms and other states of emergencies, said UNA police Chief Bob Pastula.

The Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency is also up for a Storm Ready award, Pastula said.

“We had to meet certain criteria set by the National Weather Service, such as weather monitoring and providing shelters,” he said.

Vice President for Student Affairs David Shields said he saw the funnel cloud that turned into the tornado that hit Phil Campbell last year go over Flowers Hall.

“We have worked very closely with the county EMA with this,” Shields said. “The award means that we are storm ready, meaning we have designated shelters, forms of communication and response capabilities.”

In order to prepare the campus, UNA had to designate shelters in the buildings that are being reviewed for safety and train weather spotters who can be placed at certain locations on campus to get information quickly on the site of a storm, Shields said.

Shields said the best thing students can do to prepare for storms is to sign up for Lion Alert, UNA’s alert system, for text messages and email. Lion Alerts would provide every student and staff member a warning to head for shelter if a storm system was heading for Florence.

Shields said UNA has been planning for a personalized siren system when funding allows it. The system would differ from the county’s siren by allowing messages to be announced over the campus during states of emergency. It would provide the students instant information on where to go for safety.

“The UNA police and Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee have worked very hard for this,” Shields said. “It makes me feel good to know we have these things in place, and I hope the students and staff feel that way too.”

Dorm students at UNA feel safe during storms.

“When a storm hits, I feel pretty safe,” said Keke Green, a UNA marketing student and Rivers Hall resident. “We head down to the bottom of the building where there are no windows.”

She said the process of evacuation during drills goes smoothly.

UNA’s residence life members are also trained for states of emergency.

“During storms, the fire alarm will go off and the CA will go around to all the students to tell them to go to the mezzanine,” said Nikki Messer, a UNA dorm student at Rivers Hall and a member of residence life. “I personally think it is not an unsafe place. The building itself is built like a fortress, so I feel pretty safe.”

Green said she thinks the community advisers are trained well for emergencies.

“I do think they do a good job making people feel safe and making sure they are safe,” she said.

Shields said UNA has a good system for emergencies, but the university is still trying to find ways to enhance it.