UNF prepares for tropical storm Arthur and other campus crises

Saphara Harrell

Don't panic. The UNF Crisis Management Team has devised specific emergency protocol to prepare for hurricane season, other natural disasters, and everything in between. Photo by Josh Brangenberg
Don’t panic. The UNF Crisis Management Team devises specific emergency protocol to prepare students for hurricane season, other natural disasters, and everything in between. Photo illustration by Josh Brangenberg

June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season, and Jacksonville felt prepared for tropical storm Arthur, even though he blew by us this Independence Day weekend. With the promise of future storms looming above our heads, it’s important to know what to do if a hurricane or other natural disaster were to come to campus.

UNF’s Crisis Management Team ensures campus safety in disaster situations by devising storm protocol for campus emergencies. The team consists of Chief Information Officer Lance Taylor, Vice President of Public Relations Sharon Ashton, and Director of Physical Facilities John Hale. The team meets every other week to go over drills that will prepare UNF for emergencies.

Taylor said the top three priorities in an emergency situation are preserving life, stabilizing the situation, and giving support.

Ashton said different disasters have different protocol. UNF has an alert system which calls, emails, or texts students letting them know what’s going on. “If a tornado touches down over Christmas break, the message would simply be to stay away from campus,” said Ashton.

Ashton said most students would rather go home than stay at a shelter if given enough warning. If not, they should evacuate to the closest shelter, Atlantic Coast High School. She said the good thing about a hurricane is that there’s a lot of warning. “You couldn’t escape [hearing about it] it if you tried.”

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Taylor said all the buildings have diesel generators to provide backup power during outages. “For the most part the buildings all have generators for life safety only,” said Hale, one of the first people on campus after a storm hits. “People think ‘power goes out, I’m going to have power for everything in my office.’ And that’s not the case for the most part. Those generators are there mainly to facilitate egress in the event of a fire.”

Hale said Hicks Hall and the Matthews Building are the only buildings with fully redundant power, meaning there’s backup power for everything. He said UNF didn’t design it, but inherited it from when the building was an AOL call center.

In the event of a hurricane, Taylor said the Housing Maintenance building (bldg. 62) is the safest on campus with its sturdy brick construction and scarce windows.

UNF also has other crisis management services for students, including Emergency Response Plans for faculty, staff, and students, and ways to contact students during emergencies, such as indoor and outdoor public address systems. Students may also use the Emergency Code Blue telephones throughout campus or call the UNF Police Department at 904-620-2800 to report an emergency.