Grambling State, NWS team to be StormReady

Pictured from left to right are GSU Assistant Police Chief Albert Ernest, GSU Police Chief Rod Demery, and NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Charlie Woodrum. (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

As he’s met incoming freshmen and their parents during Summer Orientation sessions, new Grambling State University Police Chief Rod Demery has stressed his department’s primary job is to make sure GSU students, faculty and staff are kept safe.

Potential safety hazards can come in many different forms, and it’s for that reason that GSU has teamed with the National Weather Service for the StormReady program.

To be recognized as StormReady, a community or university must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and to alert the public; create a system that monitors local weather conditions; promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan that includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. 

Meteorologist Charlie Woodrum of the National Weather Service Office in Shreveport met on Tuesday with Demery and GSUPD Assistant Chief Albert Ernest to discuss that plan, which is designed to help GSU improve communication and safety skills needed to save lives before, during and after a severe weather event.  

Woodrum also presented GSU with a recognition certficicate and a special StormReady  sign during that meeting on Tuesday.

“StormReady is an all-hazards preparedness program where the National Weather Service recognizes universities, communities, parishes and counties all across the United States for having a plan establishing how they work with the National Weather Service, how we provide them with weather support and then what they do on campus,” Woodrum said.

“For example, here at Grambling, what do students do when they get a tornado warning? They need to know to get away from windows and move to an interior room on the lowest floor of the building that they’re in. There are several different ways students, faculty and staff can get information about a tornado warning, so it’s a matter of establishing those and making sure that Grambling has the latest and greatest information from our office.”

Woodrum said that tornadoes can occur in Lincoln Parish any time of year but that there are two peak seasons during which a special vigilance should be maintained.                

“Tornadoes around here are most frequent in spring, but they occur in fall, too,” Woodrum said. “Fall is a secondary period and we’ve had some pretty bad tornadoes around here in the November into December timeframe. Then spring is our peak — March and April into May.”

But the StormReady program goes much further than tornadoes.

“StormReady is not only  about tornadoes,” Woodrum said. “It’s about preparedness. It’s about flash flooding. It’s about heavy snow and freezing rain events. But It’s mainly really about having a close relationship with the National Weather Service and making sure to be ready for all weather hazards.

“Like in this excessive heat we’ve been experiencing, people should drink a lot of water, take breaks, and watch the temperatures for outdoor athletic events and practices, be it football, soccer or even band practices. Every summer we unfortunately see fatalities in the United States from athletic practices being conducted during excessive heat. So proper precautions need to be taken and monitoring needs to be done to try and best ensure the safety of everyone.”

Woodrum said that the recent extreme flooding in the central U.S. is one more sign for the need of the StormReady Program.

“We are seeing lots of high-impact events,” Woodrum said. “We’re observing climate change in different parts of the country, so we have to be ready for more extreme events.”

Demery said he’s proud to see GSU establish the StormReady partnership with the NWS.

“It’s real important — the whole plan,” Demery said. “Our mission is to keep everybody safe and weather is a part of that. We have had severe weather here and we want to make sure everybody has a plan, whether it’s an evacuation, or recovering someone from deep water or providing some knowledge and comfort when the utilities go out.

“So we want to make sure we have a plan in place and partnering with the (National Weather Service) helps us stay on top of things, follow trends and get real-time information.”

Demery added that he planned on looking into ways to incorporate the StormReady plan and information into Grambling’s G Safe Mobile App.

“We’re going to have to discuss that because I think it should be part of the (GSU) SAFE app,” Demery said. “We’re definitely going to look into that.”

There are more than 3,100 StormReady communities across the United States. GSU has joined the ranks of more than 300 universities across the nation that have achieved StormReady status, and only the fourth university in the state of Louisiana. 

GSU’s StormReady recognition will expire in four years, before which the university will go through a renewal process.