AMHERST, Mass. – Emergency preparedness programs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have earned the school a “StormReady” designation from the National Weather Service, the first awarded to a public university in Massachusetts.
To be recognized as StormReady, a university must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public; create a system that monitors weather conditions locally; promote the importance of public readiness through seminars; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. The StormReady recognition is valid for three years.
“A lot that goes into being a StormReady university is part of our comprehensive all-hazards emergency management program,” says Jeff Hescock, director of emergency management at UMass Amherst. “All of us have the potential to be impacted by a weather-related emergency on campus, and it is critical that we have plans in place to respond to any type of weather-related emergency.”
Local, state, federal and National Weather Service officials were on campus Jan. 7 to conduct the on-site part of the accreditation process. Participating campus units included the Office of Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Safety, UMass Police Department and the electrical and computer engineering department.
During the assessment, UMass Amherst was recognized for its emergency preparedness program, 24-hour warning point capabilities for severe weather and the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) Project, led by the electrical and computer engineering department. The university also was praised for the ease of transition from severe weather events to all-hazards planning in its emergency preparedness program.
“This is a major accomplishment for our campus,” says Donald Robinson, executive director of Environmental Health and Safety at UMass Amherst. “Emergency preparedness and training is an ongoing effort that often goes unnoticed, but this designation highlights the achievements of our campus team.”
UMass Amherst is the fifth university in the state to be named StormReady, joining Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University and Tufts University. The designation has also been given to 14 communities, one military site and one commercial enterprise in Massachusetts.
Robert Thompson, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service forecast office in Taunton, Mass., will present UMass Amherst officials with the designation in a formal recognition ceremony at a later date.