When a student first moves into an on-campus residence, they are met with a flurry of papers, room inspection forms, coupons to local restaurants and emergency phone numbers. All good stuff for a new or returning student.
What is missing, however, is emergency preparedness, specifically in regards to weather. While UTA is quick and attentive with the MavAlert system, detailed guidelines for what to do when tornado sirens are heard is, unfortunately, lacking.
The UTA on-campus housing handbook outlines general advice given to anyone who has ever even heard of tornado alley: go inside, get away from windows, get low, wait for instruction. Students are sometimes given pamphlets by campus housing which state pretty much the same advice.
The problem lies in how vague this advice is. When you are a student who is not from Texas, tornadoes can be quite a new phenomenon, and on a campus boasting a large population of out-of-state and international students, this creates an opportunity for disaster.
Luckily, the solution is simple. Students should receive emergency procedure information specific to their residence upon move-in. Students should be explicitly informed about these procedures by residence assistants and instructed on their specific location in the hall (or given a map in their stack of move-in day papers).
The same goes for on-campus apartments. The clubhouse or meeting room should be a designated safe area that students are informed of upon move in. During floor meetings, especially in tornado season, this information should be touched on again when the rest of the housing policies and rules are reiterated to residences.
Since coming to UTA, I have lived in three on-campus residences. Every time I’ve lived higher than the first floor, and yet at none of these homes have I been told exactly where to go when a storm hits.
In a dorm, of course, students could go down to the first floor and loiter in a hallway until the threat passes, though this isn’t the safest or more enticing option.
However, in my campus apartment there isn’t a safe first-floor area other than the meeting room.
Not all students may choose to hunker down in a room with their RA and hall mates, but the option needs to be given. A map guiding residents to a safe room is just as important as that free queso coupon clipped to our door on move-in day.