Boston College has begun hunkering down along with the rest of the East Coast in anticipation of what could be the most damaging storm in 100 years if current forecasts are correct.
Classes were cancelled today after an announcement via the University’s emergency notification system.
Over the last week, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has been preparing for the storm in collaboration with the National Weather Service and Eagle EMS, BC’s student-run volunteer emergency medical service.
“We have been coordinating the University’s preparations through a variety of conference calls, meetings, and updates to discuss what actions are needed to be prepared for this event, and implementing emergency checklists and procedures,” said John Tommaney, director of the OEM. “Examples of actions we have already undertaken include preparing all emergency equipment, such as pumps, generators, chainsaws, and other items, to be ready for use.”
Preparation has not been limited to only equipment, however. The OEM has also prepared campus for the impending storm.
“Dining Services has inventoried food supplies and increased capacity in anticipation of the storm,” Tommaney said. “Facilities is keeping storm drains clear, securing outdoor areas, and lining up additional emergency service contractors to assist with items such as tree removal. We are prepared to implement additional steps as needed.”
Last night, Governor Deval Patrick issued a statement closing non-emergency state offices on Monday, and urging schools and private businesses to close as well.
In anticipation of the storm, the University issued a parking advisory Friday afternoon, warning students with vehicles to avoid parking in flood prone areas, such as the Mod Lot and the parking lot in front of the Plex, as well as a review of BC’s emergency closing policy.
Potential impacts of the incoming storm include damage to buildings and property by high-speed winds, flooding caused by heavy rain, and power outages. These impacts could also create safety hazards, such as falling tree branches, downed power lines, flooded streets, and flying debris.
The OEM has also collaborated with Eagle EMS in establishing two Disaster Response Teams (DRTs), who will serve as first responders in the event of significant emergencies.
“Twenty-two of our most experienced EMTs are organized into two separate DRTs that have all the training and materials necessary to respond to large scale incidents on campus,” said Alex Warshauer, president of Eagle EMS and A&S ’14. “These teams have been alerted and are prepared to deploy throughout campus in the event that they are needed.”
In addition to the DRTs, Eagle EMS has prepared their emergency response vehicle, which went into service last February, to assist in the event of damage or injury.
“Eagle EMS is prepared to expand our emergency response vehicle coverage in order to better serve the Boston College community,” Warshauer said.
Both Tommaney and Warshauer emphasized the importance of preparation in advance of the storm to ensure safety.
“The best things students, faculty, and staff can do to get ready is be prepared,” Tommaney said. “Everyone should have an Emergency Supply Kit ready, know where to get official information from the University, and monitor updates on the progress of Hurricane Sandy.”
For off-campus students, Tommaney recommended securing outdoor items, such as decorations, awnings, lawn furniture, and trash barrels to prevent them from becoming projectiles. Cars should be kept fully fueled and out of flood-prone areas, and doors and windows should be closed tight and locked as much as possible.
On-campus students should keep windows closed to avoid damage from water, and should report any damage immediately through the Facilities Work Order Center, Tommaney said.
More practical advice from Tommaney included keeping cash available in case ATMs are not working, creating an Emergency Supply Kit, and making sure items in basements that could be damaged by flooding are moved.
In an email to the community sent Friday, Leo Sullivan, vice president for human resources, reviewed the University’s policy for emergency closings.
The storm, which is expected to begin late Sunday night or early Monday morning, could last until as late as Thursday morning. Tommaney recommends that students stay in as much as possible until the storm has passed.