After a record-setting 2005 hurricane season and with the prospect that this year’s could be as destructive, USF administrators are taking steps to ensure that the University is as prepared as possible for the 2006 season.
According to Flbog.org, the 2005 hurricane season accounted for an estimated $3.1 million worth of damage to state universities in Florida. While USF was spared the brunt of the damage, receiving only an estimated $9,300 worth of minor wind damage, other schools such as Florida International University and the University of West Florida proved to be further examples of the destructive potential of hurricanes, with damage estimates of $1.2 million and $992,340, respectively.
According to Trudie Frecker, associate vice president of administrative services at USF, the school began special hurricane preparations more than a year and a half ago after a 2004 season that saw Florida affected by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
“We actually started (preparations) last year because of the year before,” Frecker said. “That’s when we had all those hurricanes go up through Central Florida. That affected our Lakeland campus a couple times. As a result of that, we started doing some special preparations.”
With the 2006 hurricane season less than two months away, Frecker said the administration has taken great lengths to improve the school’s hurricane defenses.
Frecker said USF has ordered and is awaiting the delivery of nine additional large generators to provide emergency power in the event of an outage.
Also, small staff meetings have already taken place to discuss USF’s hurricane preparedness, and larger ones will be held closer to the start of the 2006 season, which begins June 1.
“We meet on a regular basis and have been doing this for years,” Frecker said. “The big meetings that start up in May or June end up having anywhere from 20-30 people. The couple of pre-meetings that we do, have a much smaller group; there’s only about 12 of us that meet at those.”
The meetings, Frecker said, are used to discuss a variety of issues, including which school buildings need the most attention before the storms start rolling in.
“We’ve had meetings to discuss which are the most critical buildings in terms of restoring power,” Frecker said. “We’ve also done walkthroughs of all the buildings, and we’ve inspected all the roofs and done a priority order of which roofs need the most attention before the next storm.”
With so many organizations affiliated with USF, it is also important to keep everyone informed and make sure everyone is on the same page, Frecker said.
According to Frecker, some of the meetings’ attendees include the Director of Resident Services, the University Police Chief and the head of USF’s Department of Environmental Heath and Safety.
Also represented in the meetings, Frecker said, are campus affiliates H.Lee Moffit Cancer Center, Shriner’s Hospital and the Sundome, as well as each of USF’s regional campuses.
While the larger hurricane meetings aren’t scheduled to begin until May or June, Frecker said the administration will monitor the upcoming season and will be prepared to meet earlier or more frequently should the season become active early on.
Frecker is confident of the preparations USF has undergone and added that University officials have also monitored the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana to see how institutions in the area responded to the event.
“I think we’ve done a good deal,” Frecker said. “We’ve also paid attention to the information coming out of Louisiana last year and what other institutions are doing. I think we’re in pretty good shape, as good as you can be if (a hurricane) hits.”
USF has also created a Web site to provide hurricane information to students and staff. The site, located at www.pplant.usf.edu/hurricane/default.htm, includes general hurricane information as well shelter sites and a USF hurricane preparedness guide.