New warning system to use texts and e-mails to send alerts

Hurricane season can be frightening, especially for those who have never been through one. Changes at Florida A&M University will ease stress when it comes to personal preparation this year. Christen McDowell, a 20-year-old Jacksonville native, became concerned about hurricane preparation on campus her sophomore year. She said one day before the arrival of a hurricane in 2004 she felt FAMU did not provide enough information for students. “It was raining and lightning,” McDowell said. “I don’t think it was a safe environment,” said the biology pre-med major. McDowell, as well as other students, felt FAMU’s response to hurricanes that year was not up to par. “Each day it got closer and we were like are we going to be evacuated, are we going to class?” she said. “It (the FAMU Web site) wasn’t update until the next morning.” That same year the University of West Florida was hit hard by Hurricane Ivan. Sandra M. Flake, provost of the University of West Florida, was involved in making decisions for students during the hurricane season that year. Flake is chairwoman of the Emergency Management Task Force. The task force is working to provide suggestions for Mark B. Rosenberg, chancellor of the state university system of Florida, on how Florida universities and colleges can prepare for emergencies. Flake said Florida universities have continuity of operations plans, which are plans containing information on what to do during an emergency. Flake said preparation is an important factor in assisting students during an emergency. “(Preparation is) so that students have plenty of time to get to a safe place,” Flake said. “The best blessing we have had is making the preparation early and making the call early.” Flake said it is important to keep information updated. In August FAMU’s comprehensive Emergency Plan was updated and a new system was added. Students will be able to receive text messages or e-mails containing answers to many of the questions that arise during hurricanes or other emergencies, such as whether or not classes will be suspended. The Emergency Operations Center, located in FAMU’s police office, compiles all of the information during an emergency. “e2Campus can be used with any e-mail account. This tool can also be used for campus information outside of an emergency. It is especially useful when we have a safety, security or health emergency,” Officer Sherri Luke from the FAMU Police Department said. The system can also alert you of campus-wide deadlines, FAMU sports scores and activities on campus. After hearing about the new service McDowell said she is satisfied with the improvements. “I’d rather get a text message than to go on (the) Web site and keep checking,” she said. “Most people use text messaging or e-mail. I know I do.” The Department of Education and Department of Homeland Security provided a grant for the service. Parents can also use e2campus. “… Each student has two numbers and two e-mails that can be used. Parents can sign up by going to This is the sign-up page for both parents and students. Students can also register their parent’s number and e-mail when they register,” Luke said. But students should not leave all responsibility up to the university. They must also be prepared. Parents can call 1-877-famnews for information during emergencies. Flake said students should stay in touch with their parents, keep cell phones charged, make living arrangements before a hurricane hits and remember to let their parents know where they will be. For additional preparation, students should make a hurricane supply kit. It should include important documents like insurance cards, water, a flashlight with batteries, a battery-operated radio and non-perishable foods. For people living off campus, do not forget to fill your gas tank. For an entire list on things to pack, check Flake said students should also make a checklist of things to do, like unplug and remove electronics from the floor, close windows, clean out refrigerators and place other valuables in a safe place. But remember, it is also part of your responsibility to stay informed. If a hurricane or emergency situation requires evacuation, Luke said the American Red Cross is a good source for assistance. “We recommend that all students both on and off campus monitor the local weather and media (radio and print) for the latest news. The University will update the web as needed during an emergency,” Luke said.

American Red Cross 850-878-6080Source: Bill Edmonds Director of Communications for the Emergency Management Task Force