Staying Safe When Severe Weather Hits Campus

By Ashley Tripp, Student at the University of Alabama

On April 27, 2011, a deadly EF4 tornado swept through Tuscaloosa, Ala. (home of the University of Alabama), causing extensive damage and devastation to the city.

Not only did the storm impact the town, but it hit the university as well. Families were separated, homes were destroyed, students went missing and lives were lost, including one of my sorority sisters. In an act of response, the entire town of Tuscaloosa immediately came together to try and restore the community by donating clothing, water, food and providing shelter at the remaining facilities that were barely missed by the tornado.

Almost a year has passed, and the campus has steadily regained its restoration and growth in rebuilding the city.

In reflecting past weather emergencies not only at the University of Alabama, but other college campuses as well, it is important to be prepared and to learn how to stay safe in severe weather seasons. All universities will have a weather alert system that you can stay connected with either via email or phone to follow the National Weather Service. Also, there should be specific shelter sites for severe weather located on each of your campus building’s evacuation maps.

Here are some beneficial tips in knowing what to have available during emergencies, what to do and where to move to safety immediately in severe weather season.

  • Flashlights
  • First Aid Kits
  • Emergency Contact List
  • Document wallet for copies of insurance cards, driver’s license, etc.
  • Whistle
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Rain Ponchos
  • Small tarps
  • Packs of batteries
  • Radio
  • Medicine case
  • Blankets
  • Clothes
  • Food
  • Water

If there is a tornado warning on campus, immediately move to the lowest point of the nearest structure and away from windows and doors. Remain inside until you are notified that severe weather has left the campus area. Stay tuned to television or radio for further weather alerts.

Above all, stay calm. When the tornado hit our campus, I sought shelter at our main library in the lowest level below ground. Even though I wanted to head back to my sorority house with my other sisters, I was instructed to stay at the library as well as other students and faculty members until the storm had completely passed. Once the tornado had cleared its path of Tuscaloosa, the power went out all over campus. Fortunately, my Recreational Center and a couple residential halls had emergency lighting. After listening to the local weather alerts, the University of Alabama had prepared me for staying safe during the next couple of hours and well into the morning.

Image: George Stojkovic /

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