Students rarely think about the steps towards a campus wide shut down or the consequences that follow. The unscheduled cancellations do not happen on a whim or without much thought and consideration. Making up class days, deciding which departments need to stay on alert and how will this affect the semester are on that list of considerations.
“The number one consideration is the safety of students, staff and faculty,” said Gary Leftwich, Director of Communications in the Risk Management Department. “A team of select people in key roles come together to assess the threat and make a recommendation to the president.”
The University of West Georgia’s community consists of thousands of students, faculty and staff. Among those thousands, 75% of that is made up by commuter students alone. Besides making sure everyone is safe on campus, Risk Management must take into account how many people have to safely travel to and back from campus.
“The main concerns [about Hurricane Irma] were the possible impacts on campus and allowing students ample time to travel home or to other destinations before the storm struck,” said Leftwich.
In order to ensure that UWG remained safe during the hurricane and tropical storm, Risk Management stayed up to date on weather forecasts. Consistently watching patterns and predictions of how the Carroll County area would be affected, they were well ready for any sort of disaster the area could have faced .
“Usually, the incident command team watches developing conditions for days ahead of severe weather,” said Leftwich. “The team communicates storm warnings and watches to all audiences via Wolf Alert as they are released.”
The effort to keep everyone safe extends to several other departments. The incident command team consists of representatives from university police, residence life, student services, facilities, risk management, dining services and university communications and marketing. Medical and counseling services join the team when their resources are needed.
“The residence life team communicates with students as well, encouraging them to stay in their rooms as conditions worsen,” said Leftwich. “The team also decides when to mobilize medical, safety, recovery and other resources.”
Each time the campus needed to be shut down due to inclement weather with any potential for danger, Risk Management and partnering departments grouped together to ensure the safety of the students, faculty and staff throughout the hurricane.