BGSU residents unclear on tornado safety

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Abby Shifley and Abby Shifley

March 17-23 was Ohio’s Spring Severe Weather Awareness week, but at least three students in BGSU residence halls are unclear on where to go in the event of a tornado.

According to the Wood County Emergency Management Agency’s website, “Flooding, severe thunderstorms, high wind events, winter storms, and tornadoes are the most common severe weather events in Wood County.”

Lily Rosenberg, freshman public health major, lives in Founders Hall and said the basement would probably be the place she would go if there was a tornado warning.

“I live in Founders, and I think that if there was a tornado, we would probably go down to the basement, like at the lowest point of the basement,” Rosenberg said.

The basement in Founders has windows in the Honors Den, which is a large lounge area for students to study in. The wall of the den that faces one large hallway in the basement is also completely made of glass, which makes that part of the basement an unsafe area to go if there is severe weather and high winds.

When told this information, Rosenberg responded, “I didn’t think about that. With all the glass, that’s obviously not somewhere we could go, so I’m not actually sure where we would go. After thinking about going to the basement, I would say the first floor, but also there I can’t think of a place where there isn’t windows.”

In Founders, there are “evacuation plans” on every floor in the residence hallways. These posters advise students to “Go to interior rooms, restrooms or halls on the lowest floor. Avoid halls that open to the outside in any direction. Stay away from windows” if there is a tornado.

Josh Lawrie, director of the Office of Residence Life, wrote in an email, “Our hall team is trained on severe weather during their training. The residence halls have an audio system that alert that building when the county system is activated. This alert is tested on the first Saturday of each month. This system provides directions to students during such an emergency. Our hall team assist in helping students respond to the situation.”

He also mentioned each hall had signs up that have information on what to do in severe weather, a weather radio at the front desk and emergence supply kits.

Fire drills happen frequently in residence halls, but tornado drills are rarer. The city of Bowling Green’s tornado sirens go off on the first Saturday of the month, according to the Wood County EMA’s website, but Founders is not required to perform any emergency drills during this time.

Sophomore Offenhauer resident Lauren Gregory had no clue where to go if there was a tornado but would instead rely on her instincts.

“I actually have absolutely no idea. Although my first reaction would be, like, I live on the second floor, which is the lowest floor you can live on, so I feel like I would just go into the hallway and sit there because that seems relatively safe,” Gregory said.

Kaylee Staton, sophomore inclusive early childhood education major, lives in Offenhauer West and felt similar to Gregory.

“I have no idea. The first place I would probably think of going though would be the hallway, but since I live on the sixth floor, I don’t think I would be safe in that hallway,” Staton said.

Katie Brannan, freshmen inclusive early childhood education and resident of Falcon Heights, knew how to stay safe during a tornado.

“I would listen to what the PA says and probably go to a hallway with no windows,” Brannan said.

The Tornado and Severe Weather page on BGSU’s website has some information on tornado emergencies, as well as a video about general tornado safety.

According to the website, a tornado watch means “all weather conditions are right for a tornado to develop” and a tornado warning means “a tornado has been sighted or appears to be imminent.”

The website also adds, “If the warning siren is activated, an AlertBG message is received, or the weather is threatening:

  • Go to the basement or an inside room or hallway at the lowest level of the building.

  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, and large hallways.

  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a heavy table or desk, if possible.

  • Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

  • If outside, get into a ditch or depressed area. Do not use a vehicle as a safe area or to outrun the tornado.

If you hear or smell leaking gas, do not strike a match or lighter or turn on a light switch; any size flame or spark could cause an explosion. Exit the area and call 911 to report the leaking gas.”