by Juliana Walter
Throughout the first week of classes, The University of Tampa sent out various emails and text messages about the progress of Hurricane Dorian. Although Florida ended up not being in the hurricane’s path, UT cancelled classes for Tuesday, Sept. 3, through the school’s alert system on the Friday before.
UT’s online alert system is connected to every student and faculty member’s school email. In order to get text message alerts about the latest emergency and safety updates on campus, sign up for UT’s Spartan Mobile Alert (SMART) on the university’s website. Students are encouraged to take precautions for any type of inclement weather and contact campus safety with any concerns.
In the case of Hurricane Dorian, UT cancelled classes fairly early to ensure student’s safety. James Houlahan, a sophomore PR major, said “The call was probably made early in reaction to any disapproval of the late notice during Hurricane Irma”.
Many students and parents felt UT did not cancel classes soon enough during past storms. Classes during Hurricane Irma were not officially cancelled until the day before the hurricane was scheduled to hit Tampa.
Hailey Morgan, a junior criminology major, was living on campus the year Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September of 2017. “I drove up to Tennessee with my aunt,” Morgan said. “It was kind of last minute because we were not sure what the storm would do.”
Morgan also added that she decided for her own safety to leave campus before UT released their statement cancelling classes and closing the campus for four days. “I left whether they cancelled classes or not.” Morgan said.
UT’s current weather emergency protocol, which can be found on The University of Tampa’s website under ‘University Services’, is based on local and state emergency management. While weather emergencies are somewhat unpredictable, UT still attempts to monitor it closely and make safety decisions in an appropriate amount of time.
Katie Godwin, a staff assistant in the Operations and Planning department, explained how UT prepares for hurricanes and other natural disasters. “UT is designated as a ‘Storm Ready’ campus and as such, can withstand some levels of a hurricane,” said Godwin. “In the event of an evacuation, UT would transport students to a county-run shelter and provide a structure for the shelter experience.”
Depending on the storm’s severity, UT’s food services will remain open for students. If the storm is strong enough and the regular dining options on campus must be closed, UT will still provide students with food and water.
The Emergency Operations Team oversees UT’s emergency alert system. “The Operations and Planning department is a key leader in the Emergency Operations Plan,” said Godwin. “This group, with the input of other key campus constituents, help to make the decision for campus closures which is why classes were cancelled on Tuesday.”
The Emergency Operations Team has close contact to local meteorologists and other weather monitoring resources. Decisions about school and campus closure are always made with students and faculty safety in mind.
Juliana Walter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org