Be prepared for severe weather

In an average year, Illinois gets hit with more than 60 tornadoes, placing it consistently in the top 10 states with the most tornadoes.

The odds of one or more tornadoes hitting a portion of DeKalb County is at least one in three, every year. We also get 60 mile-per-hour winds or hail an inch or more in diameter roughly twice a year. And then there’s flooding – the university was forced to shut down for most of a Friday in August 2007, when flash floods made many roads impassable.

The governor has declared the week of March 5, Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the state of Illinois. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 7, all K-12 schools in the state will participate in a statewide tornado drill. At that time, all NOAA weather radios will give a test tornado warning, outdoor warning sirens will go off statewide, and cable TV and media may interrupt programming to test tornado warning broadcasts. At that time, think about where you would go in the event of a tornado here at NIU or where you live so that you can protect yourself when severe weather occurs.

Nearly every NIU building has designated shelter locations. You can find them by clicking “Maps” on the NIU app and selecting “Public Safety” from the drop-down menu. Clicking on tornado symbols will show you tornado shelters all over campus. On a computer, visit www.niu.edu/visit/maps/interactivemap and click on “Public Safety” in the drop-down menu to see where exactly where to go in the event of a tornado warning. Please take the time to review how you might best reach shelter from locations you frequent across the campus.

In the case of a power failure, the university has redundant methods to alert staff and students of weather emergencies. More than 300 weather radios are distributed across campus. These radios broadcast warnings received from the National Weather Service. Emergency text messages and emails will be sent as well, and you can subscribe to personalized weather alerts by going to weather.admin.niu.edu,  clicking on “campus weather safety” from the left menu bar, and then “subscribe to weather alerts.” Weather alerts will display on that website in real time as well.

Smartphones can alert for tornado warnings through cellular service providers; make sure those alerts are turned on. An Emergency Notification System is available in many buildings on campus to alert faculty and students of dangerous weather and other hazards. Campus cable channel 35 will broadcast the warning and it will crawl across the bottom of the screen. Also, the city of DeKalb will activate its outdoor sirens when a National Weather Service tornado warning is issued and reflects an immediate threat or if a tornado is sighted by trained weather spotters.

NIU faculty, staff, students and guests can decide which alert option they prefer. To learn more about how we keep students safe at NIU during severe weather, visit http://weather.admin.niu.edu or follow NIU Weather on Facebook and Twitter.

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