After observing the preparedness of the Gulf Coast cities during Hurricane Katrina, USF officials say they are confident in the school’s emergency plans for a Category 5 hurricane.
“We are as prepared as can be,” University Police Capt. J.D. Withrow said. “All you can do is write the best plan possible.”
The school’s emergency plans are under constant revision.
“We are closely monitoring world events and continually adapting our emergency plans in response to them,” USF President Judy Genshaft said.
If a hurricane stronger than a category 3 is heading for the Tampa area, Hillsborough County may order an evacuation. From there, UP would be contacted and given orders from staff at the Physical Plant.
“And then we know how to staff the shelters and act accordingly. We find out about housing and if the University will be open or not,” said UP spokesman Sgt. Mike Klingebel.Per procedure, USF media relations staff will use televisions, radio and the Internet to give direction to students and faculty.
A major problem that Katrina relief efforts faced was the loss of communication, Withrow said.
“I was amazed that something so basic was overlooked,” he said. “Here at USF we have contingency plans for a loss of communication. If we have to drive around in SUVs with a P.A. system or use runners to get the word out we will do it.”
Residents in some Gulf Coast cities were trapped because of a lack of transportation. USF’s emergency plan provides shuttles to take students without transportation to assigned shelters.
Reports surfaced after the devastation of Katrina that Gulf Coast shelters were chaotic because of a lack of authority.
After the county gives the assigned shelters to the school, UP will assign officers to be deployed to the same shelter locations that the students will be shuttled to. Resident assistants, along with residents, will also be assigned to these shelters.
The emergency plans do not explain what happens to students should the campus become uninhabitable.
Schools devastated by Hurricane Katrina had to depend on other universities in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – of which USF is a part – to open their doors and allow students to enroll.
The University does not have any agreements with any other colleges in case of an emergency situation.
“This is a group effort,” said Media Relations Director Michelle Carlyon.
In the case of a catastrophic hurricane, USF must rely on the good will of other schools accredited through SACS, she said.
In the event of such a situation, whether credits will be transferred or tuition waived or paid is all decided by the school the displaced student attends, Carlyon said.
The school officials believe they are as prepared for a hurricane as possible.Geographically, USF sits at one of the highest land elevations in the Tampa Bay area. The Sun Dome is designated by the state as a disabilities relief shelter. Bay Area businesses have emergency plans to relocate to the USF campus in case of a major disaster, Carlyon said.
The USF campus is one of the safest places to be in the event of a major emergency. Genshaft advises all students to become aware of USF’s preparedness plans by going to the emergency plans Web site at .