Sept. 26, 2011
Contact: Buddy Peaster at 615-898-2424 or Tom Tozer at 615-898-2919
AccuWeather system will add precision, urgency to MTSU tornado alerts
Beginning Friday, Oct. 21, Middle Tennessee State University will issue tornado-warning alerts based on technology provided by AccuWeather, a private company with a team of meteorologists who provide customized and site-specific weather warnings for universities and corporations across the nation.
Utilizing the latest in geographic information systems (GIS) mapping technology, Accuweather monitors and pinpoints severe weather patterns 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unlike the National Weather Service, which observes weather from a more global perspective, Accuweather homes in on those specific geographic areas where its clients are located.
“This new service will provide more accurate and timely information regarding tornado activity that might impact the general areas of both the campus and Miller Coliseum,” said MTSU Police Chief Buddy Peaster. “Accuweather will notify us when the campus appears to be in the path of a tornado that is within 20 minutes of us. Then we will activate our sirens and utilize our RAVE notification system via text message, email and voice alert.”
There are five tornado sirens located on the campus proper and one siren at the Miller Coliseum, on Thompson Lane. Peaster said the general area of campus also encompasses those MTSU satellite offices in the community near the university as well as the horse coliseum.
“We’ve had six sessions with our ‘building runners,’ and our message to them has been that this new system of tracking tornadoes should cut down on the number of warnings that disrupt classes when people go to their ‘safer places’—especially when tornadic activity is spotted somewhere in the far corners of the county. That should be good news for everyone.”
There are approximately 230 building runners at MTSU, mostly clerical staff, who knock on office and classroom doors in their assigned areas and advise people that they should seek those designated safer areas.
Peaster added a caveat. “We also made it very clear—and we need to get this message to all faculty, staff and students—that when a warning is issued, it adds a whole new level of urgency and we need to take it seriously. If Accuweather tells us that the campus is in the path of a tornado, we should head to our designated safer places and not just blow it off as a false alarm.”
Accuweather’s record is impressive. In 2008, a manufacturing company and client took a direct hit from a tornado. Because the company received a warning from Accuweather 22 minutes in advance, 88 employees were able to take shelter. When the tornado hit, the building literally collapsed around them, and injuries amounted to minor cuts.
In a 32-month study of America’s auto industry documents, the National Weather Service issued a total of 390 tornado warnings in areas where three manufacturers were located. In that same period in those specific areas, Accuweather issued 53 warnings. The savings against lost production time amounted to more than $15 million.
Universities that already utilize Accuweather include Vanderbilt, Clemson and Florida State. Companies on board include Caterpillar, International Truck & Engine and numerous railway systems such as Union Pacific.
“I can’t emphasize enough that with this new service, we will send out tornado alerts when possibly dangerous activity is more imminent for campus,” Peaster said. “Everyone will need to take the RAVE alerts and the sirens more seriously.”
Key words: MTSU, Middle Tennessee State University, tornado alert, campus safety, AccuWeather