Improve weather alerts at ULM

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Improve weather alerts at ULM

Alex Melancon, [email protected]

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We’ve entered severe weather season. Dozens of people have already lost their lives to weather-related hazards this year. ULM is not doing enough to help us be ready for this.

ULM has posted some guidelines for tornado preparedness – two paragraphs, 12-point font, single-spaced, on sheets of paper taped to walls in the halls of various academic buildings. They are easily overlooked compared to other fliers posted in the same areas. As a result, many students and faculty have little to no knowledge of what to do in order to protect themselves in a tornado.

While ULM itself was spared, damage was reported across Ouachita Parish and most of north Louisiana as a whole due to some of the recent storms. At the time of this writing, nine people across the southeast had reportedly lost their lives to recent severe weather, and dozens more were injured.

These storms were not unexpected – the National Weather Service along with local news outlets began highlighting them days before the event. ULM attempted to warn students during a recent storm and told us to “shelter in place” if an incident occurred on campus. While their effort is commendable, this advice is misguided. In the event of a tornado, you should move to the lowest floor of your building into a windowless interior room and put as many walls between you and the storm outside as possible.

For the hundreds of students living on the second, third and fourth floors of the residence buildings on campus, sheltering in place is the wrong plan. If the campus had been struck by a tornado, these students would have been caught in some of the most dangerous places to be.

The Monroe area was placed under a severe thunderstorm warning at 1:57 p.m. on April 13, as a line of storms approached. A “Warhawk Alert” message was sent out an hour later at 2:57 p.m. While it is understandable to have a delay as information is filtered through the administration officials responsible for these messages, an entire hour is unacceptable. In the event of a tornado or other weather hazard, every minute of advanced warning could make the difference between someone making it to safety or not making it at all.

As a senior in ULM’s atmospheric science program, I have extensively learned about these hazards and the importance of properly educating and warning people about them. ULM has an entire department dedicated to the weather that is full of people willing to help others prepare for events like this.

The administration should seek and take guidance from them next time our area is threatened. With their assistance, the university can be better prepared to issue safety precautions as well as determine when campus closures are and aren’t necessary. Until then, stay weather aware by keeping the local emergency alerts feature active and the ringer volume up on your smartphone during potentially hazardous conditions.