On Thursday, Sept. 2, and Friday, Sept. 3, the St. Mary’s campus community experienced rain showers and cloudy skies related to Hurricane Earl. It was the first weather-related incident of the college year and the first incident that could have required emergency actions.
A hurricane is just one of the many emergency situations for which the college prepares.
Laura Bayless, Dean of Students, said, “you gotta make sure…the storm drains are clear so that it can handle extra water.” Dean Bayless continued to say that providing non-perishable foods for students and making decisions on to have or to not have classes are some of the other important aspects of planning for hurricanes.
In the event of an evacuation, the college works with the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Safety to determine a location, and the manner in which to evacuate. In the event of coastal flooding, St. Mary’s County may decide to use the Michael P. O’Brien Athletic & Recreation Center (ARC) as an evacuation site; subsequently, the Red Cross would bring in cots and blankets.
In the case of evacuation of campus, Dean Bayless mentioned students with vehicles may leave themselves and go to unaffected areas, such as their homes. She said, “[Students] are welcome to stay on campus…but if you just want to go, then go.”
The college has insurance to help compensate for damages done to both private and public property. Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business & Finance at St. Mary’s College, said the college assumes liability for college-caused damage to private property. Botzman continued to say, “we do everything we can to make it good [for the students]…you’re the ones who live here.”
The state of Maryland insures the college for any damaged property on campus. Botzman said the college “files a claim” with the State, which then compensates the college relative to the claim.
Botzman described the state insurance program as a “parent organization” and “an agency of the state.” When describing potential costs, Botzman said the college pays no premium like those in private insurance plans. Rather he said, “It’s a part of how we operate, it’s a state-wide program.” Because the college is part of the state insurance umbrella, students and other members of the campus community do not pay for this insurance through tuition or fees.
On the student side of emergency preparedness, the resident life staff is in charge of communicating with students and making them aware of situations. Senior Charles Onwuche and Residence Hall Coordinator for Warring Commons (WC), said resident life staff uses email, direct contact, and signs to disseminate information to the students. He and the resident life staff “have a protocol for each type of emergency.”
Onwuche described how in some emergency situations the resident life staff works to put on games and activities for students. “We will cater to the students…[who] want an opportunity to relax and do something non-educational,” said Mr. Onwuche.
The college provides a comprehensive and detailed emergency guide on its website (http://www.smcm.edu/emergency/emergencyguide.html).