University prepares for severe weather

By Megan Wimsatt and By Megan Wimsatt

When severe weather hits, it is important to be prepared. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has started program that will help communities be ready in case of severe weather, and the University is trying to follow it.

Recently, the University purchased 200 emergency alert weather radios in an effort to become what the National Weather Serivce calls a StormReady campus. Matthew Keefe, the emergency management coordinator at the University, said being a StormReady campus had a few requirements.

“Part of the criteria is you have to have redundant ways to notify your population of severe weather,” he said.

This criterion is filled by the AlertBG system, the outdoor warning sirens and loudspeakers in some buildings that go off through the fire alarm system when severe weather is in the area, Keefe said.

“The last piece is the emergency alert weather radios that we have here. Those are being deployed – at least one in every single building on campus, if not more,” he said.

A few buildings may get multiple radios, depending on their sizes. Having more radios for big buildings allows for quicker and easier communication.

“One little weather radio for a big huge building, it’s going to be a slight impact, but it’s going to give you advanced warning,” Keefe said.

The radios’ signals come from the National Weather Service in Cleveland, so there is no need for human interface, Keefe said. The radio unit needs to be programmed for Wood County and then programmed for what alerts will set the radio off.

When looking for the radios, which have to be NOAA approved, Keefe found a University connection.

“Long story short, I was able to talk with the different program managers. In this case, it was the owner of the company for Alert Works, Karl Strauss,” Keefe said. “He and I began to talk, and he (let) me know he was a graduate of BGSU.”

Strauss sold the radios wholesale to the University for $21.50 a unit. The radios will be put in every occupied building on campus.

Though the radios will mainly serve the purpose of alerting the University to oncoming severe weather, the radios can also be used as an education tool.

“The greenhouse, I put one over there. They wanted to know when the freeze warnings are going to be happening – obviously because there are plants. They can use it, not just for weather emergencies, but for learning tools as well,” Keefe said.

There will be a Severe Weather Spotter’s Training event on March 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Olscamp Room 111. Strauss will be selling weather radios, Keefe said.