UPD releases Comprehensive Tornado Emergency Management Plan
Following several weeks of tornado-friendly weather in the Southwest Florida area, FGCU released its approved Tornado Annex to the FGCU Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan on Wednesday, Jan. 26.
“By their nature, tornadoes are violent and unpredictable,” University Police Chief Steven Moore wrote in an email to all students which the annex was attached, “so no written procedure can address all variations or circumstances. Each person must be prepared to take action, using their best personal judgment, informed by accurate information, to protect themselves and those for whom they are responsible.”
The annex defines tornado warnings and watches as well as the procedures that the university recognizes during this kind of severe weather.
In the event of a tornado warning, which means that the weather conditions are favorable for a tornado, the annex outlines that the university will not alter operations if a warning is issued by the National Weather Service but should take precautions.
The annex also outlines that in the event of a tornado watch, which is defined as when a tornado is either spotted or indicated on radar, how the university will react, focusing on academic classes, shuttles operations, modular offices and Alico Arena.
Only campus shuttle operations, which will stop during a tornado warning, will see a change during severe weather. Academic classes, modular offices and Alico Arena will not be evacuated or cease operations but are subject to change due to weather conditions and safety.
In the event of a tornado warning, FGCU will not cancel classes, but urges students, faculty and staff to use judgement when going out into the storm.
“There is simply too little time for cancellation to be effective,” the annex states. “However, just because classes are not cancelled, does not mean it is safe to go to class. Individual judgment is critical. Do not leave a sturdy building to walk, or drive, to class in extreme weather.”
The annex goes on to state that FGCU professors are encouraged to be liberal in enforcing attendance policies during severe weather.
According to the annex, modular buildings will also not be evacuated in the event of a tornado warning, due to it successfully meeting state mandated building codes.
Both doors and windows were constructed with 9/16 inch thick laminated glass for wind and impact resistance. The annex also states that unlike ordinary trailers, the modular buildings are secured to the ground from movement with multiple engineered and inspected tie-down anchors to resist uplift and overturning during hurricane force winds.
“For this reason, FGCU will not automatically evacuate modular offices during a tornado warning,” the annex says. “However, if the occupants of the building feel unsafe and weather conditions allow for safe relocation, evacuation is acceptable.”
The Emergency Management lists Alico Arena as a concern. Although Alico Arena is constructed to meet coastal hurricane shelter standards, which exceeds the wind speed of an EF-2 tornado, typical gymnasiums and other buildings with wide free-span roofs are not safe in a tornado.
“While this is not a guarantee of the building’s performance during a tornado,” the annex says, “Alico Arena will not be evacuated during a tornado warning. The complexity and risks associated with evacuation outweigh the potential safety benefit.”
The document says university procedures should not override sound judgment with due regard for the safety of self and others.