Plattsburgh State has just recently been given StormReady status by the National Weather Service, a mark that is fairly rare among colleges, especially the Northeastern United States.
Scott Whittier, a warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, said PSUC is only the sixth college in New York State to get the designation and the second in the Champlain Valley, alongside The University of Vermont.
StormReady status is gained by a community or college campus when a representative submits an application detailing how their community or campus fills a certain set of criteria set forth by the NWS. This criteria includes a 24 hour warning point, an emergency operation center, annual weather safety talks, a formal hazardous weather operations plan and many other similar concepts and policies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA, is a group of scientists who are head the central weather studying hub of the U.S. government. NOAA’s website recommends that every community and college in the country should be going through this voluntary process to insure the maximum safety for those who live there.
The NWS reports that the U.S. experiences, on average, 100,000 thunderstorms, 10,000 of which are severe,5,000 floods or flash floods, 1,000 tornadoes and two landfalling deadly hurricanes every single year.
While the North Country doesn’t necessarily have the reputation of being affected by some of these seemingly uncommon natural disasters, professionals working on this project believe that there is no such thing as being too prepared.
Emergency Management Director at PSUC Michael Carabello spends the majority of his time developing plans and procedures for potential emergencies that could take place on PSUC’s campus. When the Stormready campaign was first brought to Carabello’s attention by then-intern Zachary Borst at the Office of Emergency Management a few years ago, he knew that it was something he was interested in being a part of. His confidence in being able to successfully join other campuses involved in this campaign was heightened when he realized that PSUC already had most of the guidelines in place to qualify for Stormready status.
“We were pretty much prepared for what was given to us for criteria when we started,” Carabello said. “There were some additional things we had to do additionally but we were very prepared overall.”
Some of the criteria and necessities that PSUC possesses to satisfy NWS standards are two emergency operation centers, which are essentially areas where his department can go to in emergencies and work as a team. These rooms are set aside for strictly this purpose and stocked with resources such as computers, monitors, radios and other devices that would be necessary for effective communication in the case of a disaster. PSUC is also equipped with two 24-hour watch points at University Police and the Campus Heating Plant — areas that Carabello calls the “Eyes and ears of PSUC’s campus” and “areas that can get the ball rolling if they were to hear about something at any time.”
PSUC has also worked directly with the NWS, specifically on one tabletop exercise where they ran through a scenario and what the procedure would be if a tornado hit campus.
Borst, who is currently transitioning into a job in emergency management in higher education in Vermont, has also spent time at the NWS location in Burlington, so he has seen this project come to fruition while working for both parties.
Borst explained how gaining this Stormready status is important to the North Country, an area that has the possibility to face a variety of types of weather of different severities that many people who live here may not even know are such serious hazards.
“This is an area that is highly susceptible to severe weather,” Borst said. “In 1998 we had an ice storm that shut down parts of New York and Vermont for weeks, and some places even months.”
Weather is always generally unpredictable, but it is apparent that PSUC has made internal progress and used their local resources in NWS to take the necessary precautions to ensure that if disaster does strike, being one of the few college campuses that has secured Stormready status ensures PSUC is one of the safest not just in our immediate area, but the entire country.
Email Bailey Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org