Millersville University (MU) is now only the seventh university in Pennsylvania to be designated as a StormReady University.
StormReady is a program designed by the National Weather Service (NWS), and there are currently more than 2,600 communities, counties, Indian nations, higher education institutions, military bases, government sites, commercial enterprises and other groups around the nation with a StormReady designation. This allows these entities to be better prepared and save lives from severe weather through advanced planning, education and awareness.
The program encourages communities to take a new, proactive approach to local hazardous weather conditions by providing emergency managers and the community with appropriate and detailed information on how to improve their operations, according to the NWS guidelines.
MU, through the Center for Disaster Research and Education (CDRE) and in direct collaboration with the University’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety and University Police, successfully completed the application and certification process which included meeting strict criteria and an official site visit by NWS, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the Lancaster Emergency Management Agency (LEMA).
“I want to thank our faculty and students who made this possible because I know that this is not something that comes easy,” Millersville president Dr. Daniel Wubah said. “You set the bar very high and I know you’ll always be able to reach that standard. This is what makes Millersville unique.”
StormReady criteria includes:
- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center.
- Have more than one way 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 community seminars.
- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
“Unfortunately becoming StormReady doesn’t make a community storm proof,” said John Banghoff, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “It’s not like that because of this, Millersville will not receive severe weather. Participation in this program does make communities ready, responsive and resilient for when severe weather does strike. Millersville is certainly very deserving of being imitated by higher education institutions not only in Pennsylvania but across the country.”
“Becoming StormReady is a detailed process that involves coordination and collaboration between multiple entities at the University,” said Sepi Yalda, professor of meteorology and director of the CDRE. “One of the most significant institutional commitments was the addition of an emergency operation center in the Palmer building on campus in addition to the development of a comprehensive hazardous weather component to the emergency operations plan,” she says.
A unique aspect of the StormReady designation is the collaboration between different university divisions and various agencies and organizations, said Jeff Jumper, state meteorologist for PEMA and Millersville alum. “Millersville University offers programs in both meteorology and emergency management and continues to prepare students effectively in both disciplines allowing them to develop a good understanding of future workforce needs,” says Jumper.
Obtaining a StormReady designation means not only understanding severe weather, but how to plan and respond to it.
“It’s really so cool to see these two disciplines meshing together,” Jumper said. “Your campus, community and the county are now even more resilient today because we are able to recover a little better from any future disasters.”
Millersville University celebrated its StormReady designation with a ceremony on March 2, attended by students, staff, members of the National Weather Service, PEMA, LEMA, and Blue Rock Fire Company.
“One thing I want to mention is we definitely enhanced safety on our campus by becoming StormReady,” said Amber Liggett, emergency management graduate student and student representative for the StormReady application process. “It’s also great to know that if you have any questions of becoming more prepared or do have these extreme weather interests like so many of our students in meteorology or emergency management do, that you have the ability or connections through the weather service, PEMA, LEMA or through the faculty to really stay connected and learn a lot more.”