JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas State University is "Storm Ready," according to the National Weather Service.
Representatives of the National Weather Service traveled to the A-State campus in Jonesboro on Tuesday to present them with "Storm Ready" certificate.
The designation was given in recognition of the university's work on emergency readiness and procedures.
Jon Carvell, safety officer with A-State, said this has been a long process.
"It's been a one to two-year process," Carvell said. "A lot of it we realized we were already doing. We decided we just needed to invite the weather service up here for a few events or exercises. We needed to visit them on a regular basis down there in Memphis and just kind of work with them on some things. The most recent thing we did was a tabletop exercise at the stadium. We followed that up with a communications drill. It was all around severe weather and how we're going to deal with those kinds of things. So, I think that was kind of the cap stone to all these things that we have been doing leading up to this certification."
Carvell said this designation is a result of everyone working together to make it happen.
"A lot of us have come together to make this happen," Carvell said. "It's a really good example of the kind of cooperation that we need up here on campus between us and the community, our faculty, staff, academics, administration, everyone."
And this designation is no small feat, officials said.
Gary Woodall with the National Weather Service office in Memphis said a university or community must meet a lot of criteria to receive the distinction.
To gain the Storm Ready designation, A-State's severe weather preparedness plans were reviewed and then scored against six mandatory criteria.
"The Storm Ready program has a number of criteria that we evaluate universities, cities, and counties on," Woodall said. "They must have an emergency operation center, they must have a twenty-four-hour warning point, they must have demonstrated methods to monitor the weather conditions locally. Ways to get warning information from the National Weather Service. Ways to push that warning information across the campus and have to have the plans and procedures in place."
The Storm Ready program was created in the 1990's and spread nationwide as local communities worked to improve their severe weather procedures.
This program is a partnership between the National Weather Service and emergency managers at the state and local levels.
Woodall said he was thrilled to see A-State leaders step up.
"A university such as ASU," Goodall said. "Is a very vulnerable target for severe weather. Because you have a lot of people concentrated in a very small geographic area. And so, there's a lot of potential risk there. So, it's really important and really gratifying to us to see the leaders here at ASU have recognized that threat and taken the steps they need to in order to attain this recognition."
Carvell said while they were already meeting many of the requirements, they have changed a few things.
"We're providing a little bit more support to our warning point," Carvell said. "Which is the University Police. They're the ones who are here twenty-four seven. They have eyes on campus and what's going on up here. We've got some different radar software and different products we use from our homes and from where ever we are. And we're always in communication whenever we've got severe weather in the forecast and we're kind of watching that stuff and just making sure that we can make decisions that are best for the university. We've also been looking at some of the things we do with our residence halls. We've changed that up a little bit and the guidance we're giving them during severe weather. So, that's changed a little bit. What we'll be doing is actually opening the Student Union when there's a tornado watch on. The Student Union will stay open. So, if you're living somewhere on campus and you don't feel comfortable, the Student Union is a more resilient building and will be there for you."
Woodall said while it is significant to receive this distinction, everyone should remember that being ready first starts with the individual.
"While Storm Ready is a university or a community level recognition," Woodall said. "We all need to remember that severe weather preparedness really starts at the personal level and it's up to each of us to make sure ourselves, our families, our businesses and our neighbors are as prepared as we can be next time severe weather threatens."
Woodall said there are three main steps you need to take to be ready.
"First, you need to have a plan," Woodall said. "Know what you're going to do ahead of time before the severe weather threatens. Waiting until the skies are dark and it's lightening and thundering is too late then to try and figure out what you're going to do. Step number two is to keep aware during potentially hazardous weather conditions. Monitor all the sources that you can and be aware of any storms that might be headed your way. Number three, if the threat does materialize quickly use those precious few seconds and minutes to activate your plan and get yourself and all of those that are near you into safe locations."
ASU is the third university in the Mid-South to receive the Storm Ready recognition.
It is also the largest university in the state of Arkansas to receive the distinction.
If you combine the city of Jonesboro and Craighead County, it becomes the first "triple" Storm Ready university town in the state.
For more information about the Storm Ready program, click here.
To learn more about Arkansas State University, log onto their website.
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