Monthly Safety Reminder: What to do in Case of Severe Weather

  • November 5th, 2018

On the first Wednesday of each month (unless inclement weather is expected), The University of Alabama tests its emergency notification systems, including UA alerts, the UA Safety App, the public address system and digital signage. In addition to notification tests, the University provides monthly safety tips and information to help the UA community be prepared in different types of emergency situations. This month’s topic is what to do in case of severe weather.

Primary severe weather season across the United States is considered to be in the spring, usually from March until May, but Alabama also has a secondary severe weather season in the fall, which typically runs from the beginning of November until mid-December. As in the spring, the severity of the fall season varies from year to year. However, the important thing to remember is that severe weather, including tornadoes, doesn’t just happen in the spring.

Best Available Refuge Areas and Campus Shelters

To prepare for the possibility of severe weather on campus, UA employees and students should locate the Best Available Refuge Area, also known as BARA, for each building where they work, live or study. The location is noted on the evacuation map posted on a wall within each building near the main entryway or stairwell.

In the event of severe weather while off campus, homeowners should identify the safest location in their home. People living in off-campus rental housing should check with their property owner for suggested locations on the property.

Other recommendations on safety during severe weather can be found here and here.

In general, classes will remain in session until the National Weather Service issues tornado warnings for the UA campus. Clearly, some students and faculty commute from adjacent counties. These counties may experience weather-related problems not encountered in Tuscaloosa. Individuals should take the necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.

When a tornado watch or warning is issued for campus, the North Campus Storm Shelter, East Campus Storm Shelter, Magnolia Parking Deck Best Available Refuge Area, and the New Freshman Hall Storm Shelter will be opened and remain open until cancellation of the tornado watch or warning. The North Campus, East Campus and New Freshman Hall Storm Shelters were built to FEMA 361 standards and can withstand wind speeds up to 250 mph. Click here to see these shelters on the campus map.

The Magnolia Parking Deck BARA can accept pets with their owners. View more information for sheltering with pets on campus.

Lifesaving Actions

Whenever the National Weather Service issues a warning, people in the path of the storm (tornado or severe thunderstorm) should take immediate lifesaving actions.

Personal safety should dictate the actions that faculty, staff and students take.

  • In the case of a tornado warning (tornado has been sighted or detected by radar; sirens activated), all University activities are automatically suspended, including all classes and laboratories.
  • If you are in a building, move immediately to the lowest level and toward the center of the building away from windows (interior classrooms, offices or corridors) and remain there until the tornado warning has expired.
  • Classes in session when the tornado warning is issued can resume immediately after the warning has expired at the discretion of the instructor.
  • Classes that have not yet begun will resume 30 minutes after the tornado warning has expired provided at least half of the class period remains.
  • Faculty can encourage students in their classrooms to follow these procedures by remaining in the building and going with them to the lowest level of the building.
  • Crimson Ride will immediately suspend operations, and the driver will instruct riders to go to select buildings.

Notification Methods

When a tornado warning is issued, UA notifies the campus community using one or more of the following methods:

  • UA Alerts (sign up on myBama)
  • UA Safety App
  • Campus PA system
  • Digital signage
  • Crimson Ride bus marquees
  • UA home page alert
  • Announcements on local radio and TV stations
  • Sirens on UAPD patrol cars
  • UA_Safety on Twitter

To receive UA Alerts, you should always keep your contact information updated. For instructions, go here.

For complete severe weather guidelines and more information, go here.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.