University of Alabama at Birmingham Achieves Goal for StormReady Status
Birmingham, AL, faces the threat of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms every year—and has battled serious storms in recent history. A four-day winter storm in January 2014 stranded thousands of motorists and caused hundreds of traffic accidents, impacting 24 counties across the state. Preparing for these threats and other emergencies is a responsibility shared by everyone in the community, including students and staff at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
Emergency management staff set up a display at the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital on September 9, 2015, to teach visitors the importance of winter weather safety.
“More than 40,000 students and employees attend the campus each day,” said UAB President Dr. Ray Watts, “and our clinics and hospitals see more than a million patients each year. We understand the importance of safety and security.”
Dynamic Outreach Culminating in National PrepareAthon! Day
Since 2014, UAB Emergency Management worked with federal and community partners to improve its emergency readiness status. In September 2015, JVann Martin, Director of Emergency Management for the UAB Health System, led the university medical center in a dynamic preparedness outreach event with weekly themes focusing on specific hazards. The event culminated in National PrepareAthon! Day on September 30. By the end of the month, more than 1,000 people participated in 15 activities registered with America’s PrepareAthon!SM, including nearly 30 hours of disaster planning and action.
“Emergencies can impact all of us,” said Martin, “no matter our role or function within the community. Arming yourself with a clear and concise action plan can mitigate many problems when an emergency does strike.”
Bill Mayfield, an emergency preparedness coordinator at UAB Medicine, showcases digital preparedness tools.
During the week leading up to National PrepareAthon! Day, Bill Mayfield, an emergency preparedness coordinator at UAB Medicine, helped participants identify electronic resources to improve disaster awareness, including the campus “B-ALERT” emergency notification system, the Reverse 911 public safety communications system, and Rave Guardian, a personal safety service mobile app available to anyone with a uab.edu or uabmc.edu email address.
UAB staff promoted these preparedness actions with weekly announcements via email to thousands of recipients, including medical center staff, Birmingham safety officers, and regional healthcare coalition emergency preparedness partners. Meghan Davis, a social media manager with UAB, reinforced this messaging on Twitter each week, using #ReadyUAB to track user engagement and interaction.
UAB Officially Becomes StormReady
As a result of its participation in America’s PrepareAthon! and taking steps to make the campus more secure, the National Weather Service (NWS) recognized UAB as StormReady, a designation given to organizations that maintain a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive NWS warnings and alert the public; monitor local weather and flood conditions; conduct community preparedness programs; and address hazardous weather and flooding in formal emergency management plans. UAB became the eighth university in Alabama to receive the StormReady designation and joins more than 175 certified universities nationwide.
UAB President Dr. Ray Watts at podium with Randy Pewitt on his left and NWS Meteorologist Jim Stefkovich on his right.
“Two years ago, we set a goal of taking emergency management at UAB to a new level of excellence,” said Randy Pewitt, UAB Executive Director for Emergency Management. “In particular, we wanted to be better prepared to respond to the many challenges of severe weather. I’m happy to say that after a lot of hard work, we have reached our goal.”