Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University is more prepared to protect life and property from the onslaught of severe storms, tornadoes, blizzards and floods than other colleges and universities across the nation, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
The University recently upgraded its communication and emergency weather monitoring systems, making it one of five institutions of higher learning in Illinois and 111 across the country to receive the prestigious designation as a StormReady University from the NWS.
StormReady is a grassroots program sponsored by the NWS that focuses on improving communication and severe weather preparedness in communities. It helps community leaders and emergency managers strengthen local hazard mitigation and emergency response plans.
Becoming a StormReady University means Benedictine has a 24-hour system for receiving National Weather Service reports, monitors other weather information sources, and has access to radar or other meteorological instruments to measure local hydrological conditions.
The University also has several ways of communicating warnings to the Benedictine community, provides a proactive preparedness program to teach the local community how to spot inclement weather, and has an NWS approved hazardous weather action plan in place, according to Jim Allsopp, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS.
“The National Weather Service encourages all communities and universities to become StormReady,” Allsopp said. “Tornadoes and severe storms can strike anywhere and with little notice, and it is important for Benedictine University to be prepared and have a severe weather plan in place. It’s essential for all communities to disseminate warnings as quickly as possible.”
Nearly 90 percent of all federally-declared disasters are the product of bad weather, leading to about 500 deaths and $14 billion in damage each year, according to the NWS.
“The purpose of this program is to keep the community safe,” said Michi Dubes, emergency preparedness manager/safety specialist for Benedictine. “Having this designation just means we have all of our ducks in a row. Those emergency preparedness qualifications that we need to have – we have those and then some.”
Before the StormReady designation, the University used NWS alerts to keep an eye on severe weather and communicated warnings through the University’s public address system, emergency contact lists, weather siren and website.
In 2010, Benedictine launched BenAlert, an emergency notification system that enables students, faculty and staff to receive alerts and notifications within minutes by phone, text or email message regarding emergency situations affecting the University.
University staff also installed weather radios in every campus building and trained Benedictine University Police how to use AccuWeather SkyGuard – a Web-based, weather-mapping tool that uses the latest Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and provides access to a team of professional meteorologists who can provide accurate, site-specific local weather data.
“They can contact us and let us know about certain conditions that are likely to cause severe weather events like high wind, tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning and more,” Dubes said. “Now we have a more efficient system of communicating and notifying the community of severe weather or imminent danger. Before you had all of these things going on, but they all weren’t necessarily tied together. Now with StormReady, it brings it all together.”
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.