College, community prepare for Hurricane Earl

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September 2, 2010

11:02 PM

The College of William and Mary tested its emergency systems Wednesday as Hurricane Earl approached the country’s East Coast.

The storm grew from a category three to a category four hurricane Monday as it progressed through the northeast Caribbean Islands. One common effect of a category four hurricane is heavy rain, accompanied by winds ranging from 131 to 155 m.p.h. Damage likely ranges from power outages and falling trees, to flooding and damage to buildings. However, forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the storm would pass through the area without significant effects.

Despite the favorable weather predictions, Martin said that the College was preparing for a worst-case scenario.

“The Emergency Management Team is working to ensure that no debris is loose throughout the campus, locking down what needs to be locked, and securing the campus,” Martin said. “Residence Life has also made sure students are aware of necessary security precautions — all the usual measures.”

Coincidentally, the College tested its emergency siren system, as well as its mass notification messaging system, which is used for emergency situations Wednesday.

“The sirens will go off and students will receive emergency notifications,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said. “These tests are done every semester.”

Although the test was not initiated by the hurricane itself, Martin said that students should always be prepared for any emergency situation.

“Everyone should be sure to sign up to receive the emergency messages, especially new freshmen,” she said.

The College’s emergency protocols include a 120-decibel siren systems located above the Integrated Science Center and the William and Mary Law School. During an actual emergency situation, both students and community members can check for information and instructions on the College’s website.

The College is not unfamiliar with natural disasters.

“Having worked at William and Mary since 1991, I have experienced a number of storms including Hurricanes Felix in 1995, Isabel in 2003 and Ernesto in 2006,” Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 said.

In an e-mail to students, Ambler said that the College was working with experts to prepare for the storm.

“The College’s Emergency Management Team, in consultation with national and local authorities, continues to monitor the movements of Hurricane Earl,” Ambler said. “At this time, the storm does not appear to pose any significant threat to our area. Any changes or updates for the campus will be shared by Martin and posted on the College’s homepage.”

In preparation for the storm, all College buildings closed at 11 p.m., and students were asked to remain in their rooms from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

In an additional e-mail sent to students Thursday, Martin said the College planned on remaining open Friday, with all buildings opening on the regular schedule.

“The predicted wind strength has lessened slightly for the overnight hours, but we still recommend that you stay indoors during that time,” Martin said.”

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