Hermine a Near Miss, But College Prepares for Anything

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By: Sophia Angele-Kuehn
The College Voice

As the imminent dawn of college approached, first-years wisely overestimated while packing. Once in their separate dorms, they shoved granola bars, packs of water bottles, and the odd first aid kit under their beds, having no clue as to what surprises campus life would bring them.

After one week into the school year, Conn was already facing impending Tropical Storm Hermine, as well as homework deadlines on Moodle. Fresh, summer mornings turned into split-second showers and winds that flipped umbrellas. As night approached, the Emergency Response Team emailed the campus community, warning against falling tree branches and giving preparation advice if the power ever blinked out. In the second email sent out that Labor Day weekend, Richard Madonna, Vice President of Finance and Administration and also chair of the Emergency Response Team wrote, “I urge students – and all faculty and staff who are on campus tonight – to be mindful of your safety and limit your outdoor movement on campus for the remainder of the night.” Meanwhile, young hopefuls were venturing out to their clubs’ first meeting of the year. Near Becker House, a fallen tree damaged cars.

In the midst of the storm that never quite fully hit, the campus was forced to consider the college’s policy on storm preparedness and the importance of Connecticut College’s Emergency Medical Services – members of which linger in the background of events, close at hand, ready to rush in with the necessary care before the ambulance arrives. They work at club sporting events and on weekend nights with Campus Safety – just in case.

The Emergency Response Team, however, is ready for nature well in advance. “When it comes to weather and storms, the moment we see any chance of inclement weather coming our way, the team will begin to discuss preparations, supplies on hand, potential risks, and how to mitigate the risks, and then we begin to set up regular conference calls to monitor the weather and discuss actions,” said Madonna.

If the situation becomes critical, the College will post on its social media pages and email, call, and text the campus community. “And, when the routine business of the College is interrupted, we also post a banner on every page of the website – yellow for business interruptions, red for serious emergencies,” remarked Stewart Smith, director of Campus Safety.

As to losing electricity, Smith explained, “If the power went out on campus, we do have backup generators that power some areas, such as the library and Harris Refectory, so we can keep our computer systems running and provide food to our students. We also have the ability to bring in generators that can be moved around campus as appropriate, so we can support other needs as they arise.”

Regardless, students and staff should take it on themselves to be cautious and well-equipped before the next calamity strikes campus. The Emergency Response Team provided tips in their email (put fresh batteries in flashlights, charge all electronics…) while the wind whistled through dorm windows. But how can one prepare for the next storm thrown at Conn? “One can never plan for every storm Mother Nature throws at us, but we can try our best to be prepared, ensure the safety of our students, and in the unlikely event of a storm, ensure that the campus is back up and running as soon as possible,” said Madonna.

Connecticut College has a comprehensive emergency team that warns its students, which begs the question – do other colleges?

Wesleyan University, just 45 minutes from New London, has an emergency notification system called “BlackBoard Connect” and a Campus Community Emergency Response Team, similar to Connecticut College’s. The University Of Massachusetts Amherst also has a campus EMS agency made up of students trained as Emergency Medical Technicians. Our college’s EMS club also offers an EMT-Basic Training course each semester that students can take for one academic credit.

By protecting the campus from everything involving natural disasters to sports injuries, these services ensure our comfort here at Connecticut College. These students and staff learn how to save a life, and stay brave even in the face of the storm.

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