Staff editorial: University deftly handles hurricane preparations
With all of the media coverage of Hurricane Gustav, another editorial discussing it is probably the last thing many want to read. However, the University did an excellent job of keeping students up to date on the storm, and we’d like to give credit where credit is due.
Gustav roared into the Gulf of Mexico this weekend and Houston remained within the "cone of uncertainty" on Sunday morning. A hurricane warning remained in effect from east of High Island, Texas to the Mississippi-Alabama border on Monday. Hurricanes are unpredictable even a day in advance, and while most bets were on it hitting Louisiana, one can never be too sure.
At the same time, there is a fine line between being cautious and being sensationalist – a line UH walked without stumbling.
The University’s Emergency Communications followed the storm since forecasters’ early predictions, but was careful to include the phrase, "At this time, it poses no immediate threat to the University of Houston." The system updated frequently and gave accurate information on the storm without unnecessarily frightening readers.
When the threat of Tropical Storm Edouard caused the campus to close for a day in the summer, the University acted in the same fashion, getting information out to students quickly via e-mails, phone calls and updates to its Web site.
The same couldn’t be said for the University’s performance last September, when Tropical Storm Humberto threatened Houston and UH closed campus at 5 p.m. The Daily Cougar reported that students were sent alerts at 3 p.m. the day of the closure, but that UH Police Chief Malcolm Davis said, "It can take an hour (or) hour and a half to get 30,000 alerts at once. No system can send out that many at once."
Many students live more than 30 minutes away from campus and were already making their trek here when they received the alert. The Daily Cougar ran a staff editorial criticizing UH’s alert system when many were unaware that the school had closed. It also criticized students who had not updated their contact information on PeopleSoft 8.9 and who, as a result, did not receive any alerts.
It appears the events of last year have taught UH a lesson – one we hope students picked up on as well.
It is important to update contact information on PeopleSoft 8.9 so that one can receive alerts about danger and closures, alerts we’re confident the University will send in timely fashion. The true test, though, will come when a large storm seriously threatens the University. There are still three months left in hurricane season.