MTSU’s severe weather plan aims to keep students, faculty safe

(Photo: WKRN)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – Memories of the deadly Good Friday tornado in Rutherford County are hard to shake as we enter severe weather season.

Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for an advanced warning it could have been worse, and more lives could have been lost.

Middle Tennessee State University escaped damage back in 2009 when the EF-4 tornado ripped through the area, but the campus is now prepared, taking steps to prepare students about their severe weather plan.

“I will take those with extreme immediacy,” said student Robert Bagwell as tornado sirens went off on campus.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“I get scared immediately when I hear it,” said another student, Victor Blackman.

The siren may be alarming, but it’s a sound that could save a life.

Along with the siren, school officials have mapped out a plan in an effort to keep students and staff.

Located in a room at the campus police department is a weather alert system. The campus relies on AccuWeather for severe weather and tornado warnings, and a dispatcher will sound the alarm.

“With our AccuWeather, we can pinpoint when a tornado is going to affect campus directly,” said Lt. Jeff Martinez with MTSU police.

The May 2009 tornado ripped through Rutherford County, destroying everything in its path and taking the lives of a mother and her 9-week-old daughter.

(FILE Video)
(FILE Video)

And while MTSU was spared, campus officials say that may not be the case next time.

“That’s the nature of tornadoes. You never know where they are going to strike. You never know where the path is going to be,” said Jimmy Hart, MTSU’s Director of News and Media.

That’s why the university is cutting no corners when it comes to tens of thousands of people who walk the campus.

“Twenty-two thousand plus students, couple of thousand faculty, visitors of this campus all the time… So if something happens, [like] severe weather on campus, there are a lot of folks who can be in danger. So we want to get the word out quickly, folks get to safety, and so we’re always doing things throughout the year to get the word out,” explained Hart.

MTSU also has a plan for the thousands of students who live on campus in the event of severe weather at night.

“There is a sticker on each door that details where students should go if they hear the tornado alarm go out outside,” said Amy Korstange, Associate Director of Housing.

Tornado drills are also done at least once a semester.

“We keep students safe as much as we can. When the siren goes off, they have to listen and they have to go downstairs and not outside. Our goal is to keep them as safe as possible,” added Korstange.

(FILE Video)
(FILE Video)

There are also several tornado safe zones on the lower level of buildings all across campus.

Campus police test the sirens every second Tuesday or Wednesday of each month, but just how many students will pay attention if it was the real thing?

“I take those alerts very serious. It’s always good to be aware of the situation, and they help me to be mindful of those situations and to make sure I’m safe and those around me are safe,” said student DeShun Coleman.

It’s something MTSU officials hope every student will take heed of.

“If we get an alert, it means our campus is in danger. So when that siren goes off, please take that seriously. We want everyone to be safe and we obviously don’t want to lose any lives or have any injuries,” explained Hart.

Here’s a look at severe weather plans for other Tennessee colleges:

Click here to view additional coverage of our News 2 StormTracker: Family Safety Day reports.