After preparing for the impact of a possible category five hurricane, the path of Irma shifted, sparing FMU faculty, staff and students.
As part of the preparations, FMU closed early on Friday, Sept. 8 and reopened on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 9:30 a.m. Hurricane Irma did not cause any damage to the FMU campus.
FMU Police Chief Donald Tarbell said although the eye of Hurricane Irma did not directly hit South Carolina, FMU students were still affected indirectly.
“We ask ourselves, ‘What’s the impact going to be for us, not just the campus,’” Tarbell said. “We have students who drive from all over.”
According to Tucker Mitchell, vice president of communications, a group of FMU staff members such as the president, provost and Campus Police began meeting a week before Irma became a threat. Mitchell also said a large amount of time goes into making the decision about classes.
“There’s always a line to walk between giving people an ample window to ensure their safety and not missing any more time than they have to,” Mitchell said. “People are paying for their education. We want to make sure they get all they are paying for. However, clearly, everything is making sure people are safe.”
Since FMU is a state-funded school, Mitchell said the governor and state department affect decisions, but FMU tries to ensure the safety of the students. Mitchell also said that because FMU has many commuter students, the university considers condition across the state rather than solely on campus.
“We’ve got students from different situations,” Mitchell said. “This was a different type of storm, which changes our considerations for that. Originally it looked like we might get a real hard hit from Irma, and then as it began to turn further away, and then the western part of the state became subject from Irma.”
Because of the change in the storm’s direction, Mitchell said that they had to think about the ability of the majority of students being able to come to campus.
“We want to make sure that the vast majority of students can make it back to campus without encountering any problems that would put them in an unsafe situation,” Mitchell said. “We are always going to be cognizant of the fact that it may not be the same as the overall situation.”
Tarbell said another factor that went into canceling class was evacuation traffic.
Other preparations for Hurricane Irma consisted of taking the tops off of trash cans, checking the drains to make sure they were clear and checking generators to ensure they were working.
Tarbell said Campus Police begins watching tropical storms and hurricanes before they have become a threat to South Carolina to have time to be adequately prepared.
“Anytime there are storms brewing in the Atlantic, which is usually the whole summer, we watch them as they start forming,” Tarbell said. “Realistically, we start watching them a week or two before.”
Tarbell said FMU has an emergency report plan in place for what to do in the case of an emergency such as a hurricane.