The University of Maine at Presque Isle has once again been named a National Weather Service StormReady campus after receiving a three-year renewal of its federal designation. In 2008 when it was first named a StormReady campus, UMPI became the second campus in New England, after Harvard University, and the 21st campus in the nation to receive this designation.
In order to secure the renewal, University security and safety staff had to successfully demonstrate that they have taken important steps to ensure that the campus is prepared when severe weather strikes.
"We commend you on your dedication to campus safety," Richard Okulski, Meteorologist In Charge at the National Weather Service office in Caribou, said in a letter to the University. "Through collaborative efforts with governmental organizations within the community, county, and region, your university has developed a program of severe weather readiness and education that is a model for others to follow. As a result of this commitment to excellence, the students and staff at UMPI can count on the highest level of service during times of hazardous weather."
StormReady, established in 1999, is a nationwide program that helps communities better protect their citizens during severe weather – from tornadoes to tsunamis to winter storms. Program "communities" can include cities, towns, universities, Indian Nations, and government and private entities. The program helps arm such communities with the planning, communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property before and during storm events. It also helps community leaders and emergency managers strengthen local safety and awareness programs.
The University first began looking into becoming a StormReady campus in 2008 at the suggestion of Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tony Sturey from the Caribou National Weather Service office. Greg Daniels, UMPI's Safety and Security Coordinator, then worked to implement the program. In order to become StormReady, the University had to:
• Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center;
• Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public;
• Create a system that monitored weather conditions locally;
• Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and
• Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which included training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
With its renewal, the University continues to maintain a formal hazardous weather plan and sophisticated warning system. The University also continues its close working relationship with the National Weather Service office in Caribou and provides the office with real-time severe weather reports relayed by staff.
"Planning for hazardous weather is a never ending job; however, it is very reassuring to know that you and your staff are part of the National Weather Service's effort to save lives and reduce the impacts from the many types of dangerous weather that occur in our area. We are honored and thankful to serve with you in this effort," Okulski stated.
University officials are pleased to have the StormReady renewal in place and to continue the University's collaborations with the National Weather Service.
"The University is delighted to maintain its participation in the StormReady program and to be able to continue providing our campus with an efficient and proven system for responding to severe weather," UMPI President Don Zillman said. "It's comforting for the members of our University community to know that if dangerous weather heads our way, we are well equipped to keep our campus informed and safe."