UNIVERSITY PARK – Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service Wednesday (Oct. 17) praised Penn State’s University Park campus for completing a set of rigorous warning criteria necessary to earn the distinction of being StormReady. Penn State is the first college or university in the state to be named “StormReady” by the NOAA’s National Weather Service and it joins just 18 other universities across the United States in bearing that designation.
“StormReady encourages communities to take a new, proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations and public awareness,” said Dave Ondrejik, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in State College, Pa. “StormReady arms communities with improved communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property — before and during the event.”
The nationwide community preparedness program uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides communities with clear-cut advice from a partnership between local National Weather Service forecast offices and state and local emergency managers. StormReady started in 1999 with seven communities in the Tulsa, Okla., area. There are now more than 1,250 StormReady counties and communities across the country.
Bruce Budd, meteorologist-in-charge at State College presented a recognition certificate and special StormReady signs to emergency management officials Wednesday morning. The StormReady recognition will be in effect for four years when the University will go through a renewal process.
“This is an important recognition of our ability to handle unforeseen emergencies and our desire to continually strengthen our safety programs,” said Steve Abrams, emergency management coordinator for Penn State and the Centre Region. “We have a strong relationship with the National Weather Service and we use their and our weather expertise and information along with that of Penn State’s own highly renowned meteorology department on a daily basis. I’m the type of guy that if I bring my umbrella, it doesn’t rain. So being prepared for me is very important.”
“Every year, around 500 Americans lose their lives to severe weather and floods,” said Jack Hayes, assistant administrator for weather services and director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “More than 10,000 severe thunderstorms, 2,500 floods and 1,000 tornadoes impact the United States annually, and hurricanes are a threat to the Gulf and East Coasts. Potentially deadly weather can affect every person in the country. That’s why NOAA’s National Weather Service developed the StormReady program.”
For Penn State, StormReady means having individuals trained by the National Weather Service to spot troublesome weather on the horizon by reading cloud formations or analyzing weather patterns. It also means designating areas across campus that could be used for shelter during an emergency and making use of a sizeable collection of weather alert radios that have been distributed across campus in critical areas, such as residence halls, Old Main and Physical Plant. There are about 40 total. In addition, every resident assistant in the residence halls has a land line phone to their rooms. The University’s PSUTXT text messaging system, Newswires, Web sites and WPSU-TV/WPSU-FM also are coordinated to notify the community of weather emergencies.
To be recognized as StormReady, a community must:
— Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;
— Have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public;
— Create a system that monitors local weather conditions;
— 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.
“The United States is the most-severe, weather-prone region of the world. The mission of the National Weather Service is to reduce the loss of life and property from these storms, and StormReady will help us create better prepared communities throughout the country,” Ondrejik said.
“Just like communities, families need to be storm ready by having an action plan for severe weather. Through StormReady, the National Weather Service plans to educate every American about what to do when severe weather strikes because it is ultimately each individual’s responsibility to protect him or herself,” Ondrejik added.
For more information on the StormReady program, visit here.