U. of I. named ‘StormReady’ campus

URBANA, Ill. – The National Weather Service on Wednesday awarded officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with its “StormReady” designation during an informal ceremony at the University Police Department.

The university’s Office of Campus Emergency Management was notified of the certification in January. Wednesday’s ceremony coincided with Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs March 4-10 this year.

The certification is in recognition of the extensive planning and preparation efforts to protect students, staff, faculty and visitors to the Illinois campus in the event of severe weather.

A number of specific criteria must be met to achieve the certification – the university has to establish multiple ways for campus community members to receive potentially life-saving information, systems which monitor local weather conditions, adequate and accessible storm shelters, hazardous weather preparedness campaigns and formal emergency plans, among other requirements.

“All of those criteria here at the University of Illinois were not only met, but they were exceeded by the public safety folks here at the police department particularly,” said Christopher Miller, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

U. of I. Police Lt. Todd Short, who heads the Office of Campus Emergency Management, said the certification was a priority for his team. Severe weather and tornados are common in central Illinois and the rest of the Midwest, and they present a significant threat to populated areas and universities.

“This certification was not the beginning of our preparation efforts, and it certainly will not be the end,” Short said. “Planning for emergencies is a constant effort, and we will continue working throughout the year to train and inform our community members about how to prepare and protect themselves from these threats.”

The police department is using the opportunity this week to remind campus community members of safety tips as spring severe weather is on its way:

  • Make sure to follow the National Weather Service and sign up for Illini-Alert text messages to receive prompt notifications of severe weather.
  • Understand the difference between watches and warnings – a warning means that severe weather is already present in your area and you should take immediate action to protect yourself.
  • Take a minute to identify storm refuge areas in campus buildings you regularly use. Most buildings have posted floor plans which outline safe areas.
  • Visit ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about what to do in an emergency and how you can prepare ahead of time.