National Weather Service Names UA Arizona's First 'StormReady' University

In order to qualify for the National Weather Service's StormReady designation, the UA was required to meet criteria including an established hazardous weather plan and 24-hour communication channels.
Jan. 16, 2014
The National Weather Service says the UA is prepared to face any storm Mother Nature can create.
The National Weather Service says the UA is prepared to face any storm Mother Nature can create.

From ferocious flash floods to hazardous haboobs, the UA is officially prepared to handle weather-related emergencies, according to the National Weather Service.

The organization has named the UA Arizona's first StormReady university.

StormReady is a community preparedness program established in 1999 to teach people communication and safety skills that can help save lives during natural disasters. According to the program's website, weather-related disasters cause about 500 deaths and $14 billion in damage in the United States each year.

In order to be designated StormReady, a community or institution must meet NWS criteria, which include having 24-hour communications channels, an established emergency operations center and a formal hazardous weather plan.

After meeting the criteria and passing an onsite evaluation, the UA was designated StormReady in December.

UA Police Department Cmdr. Brian Seastone, the UA's manager of emergency preparedness, said having a National Weather Service facility on campus helped the University fulfill the requirement of having technical weather monitoring equipment, like wind and rain gauges. The facility, at 520 N. Park Ave., provides climate forecasts and severe weather warnings.

The UA also has two other weather monitoring locations – UAPD's emergency operations center and UAPD dispatch, which operates 24 hours a day.

In addition, the University's Campus Emergency Response Team is equipped for immediate response to critical incidents on campus resulting from severe weather.

Seastone said that even though the Southwest doesn't necessarily experience the same extreme weather as other parts of the country, it still faces its share of Mother Nature's fury.

"Our big things are severe storms, heavy damaging winds and flash floods," Seastone said. "Monsoon season is typically when we see those heavy thunderstorms with rain and lightening, though January and February can be really rainy months. We've had some of our worst floods in those months."

In Arizona, 19 locations have been designated StormReady. The UA is the first educational institution to make the list. Across the country, approximately 140 universities have received the designation, which is valid for three years.

A major part of the StormReady criteria is having communication plans that outline how University police can work with local law enforcement and television networks to share and receive news updates in the event of an emergency.

The UA has a number of communication vehicles that Seastone said can be used in the event of a weather-related emergency, including the UAlert system, which delivers emergency alerts via text message or email; emergency vehicles with public address sirens that allow for voice broadcast over a loudspeaker system; and a campuswide email system. Also, UAPD has access to the local emergency broadcast network and law enforcement teletypes, which can be used to send and receive typed messages.

In the event of an emergency, the UA's communication channels are set up to work in the case of a power outage.

Seastone said being designated as a StormReady university is another important step for overall emergency management and preparedness on campus.

"We talk an awful lot about being prepared for all-hazards events – everything from the active shooter to fire or utility outage – but this takes us one other step in that we're prepared for the weather as well," he said. "We're just continuing to expand our preparedness."