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Safety First

After Hurricane Isabel’s rampage through the mid-Atlantic last week, the rest of the United States has been reminded of the carnage that comes with the storms.

Isabel hit North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland causing at least 30 deaths and leaving millions without power or clean water. It was the worst hurricane to hit land since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The states have been declared disaster areas by President George W. Bush and will require an estimated $1 billion to recover.

While Tampa faced no immediate threat, the USF Physical Plant has a set procedure to follow during hurricane season to ensure the safety of the campus and its residents.

In the event the campus is placed under hurricane watch — when a hurricane is expected to hit the area within 36 hours — those on campus are urged to follow Physical Plant’s checklist to ensure their own safety. The campus will have police and emergency workers present to provide maintenance during and immediately following the storm.

“When the area around the campus is under warning, our procedures include things like picking up lose items on the campus or putting sandbags around places that may be subject to leaking,” said Siva Prakash, associate director of the Physical Plant. “The best thing for the campus, though, is that residents follow our guidelines to protect themselves.”

The guidelines include pushing furniture away from windows and outer doors and covering books, papers and valuable equipment with plastic sheets.

But although similar precautions are widely adopted nationwide, people die every hurricane season due to lack of preparation.

Jim Weber, a meteorologist with WTVT Fox 13 in Tampa, said people who have not experienced the storms firsthand often underestimate them. This attitude could be disastrous, he said, if the Tampa Bay area is threatened.

“There has not been a hurricane to really hit this area since the early 1900s,” Weber said. “Even Hurricane Andrew didn’t really affect the Tampa area. People are in a complacency that (hurricanes) aren’t going to hit here.”

This outlook causes damage that otherwise could easily be avoided, Weber says. While the physical damage of a storm is unavoidable, the loss of life can be prevented.

“If you look at the people who died, they were people who were doing foolish things,” Weber said. “They weren’t people sitting in their living rooms or other safe places. They were people driving through the storm or who were outside when it hit. If they had followed the precautions they were urged to follow, they probably wouldn’t have been hurt.”

To find out USF’s Physical Plants procedures for hurricane season visit its Web site at