No more campus hurricane housing after college spent $450K during Irma

Graphic by Anastasia Rooke

Rollins will no longer offer housing to students, faculty, or staff in the case of a hurricane or other extreme weather emergency.

This change comes after the college spent up to $450,000 to house 125 students and 60 staff members during Hurricane Irma last September. The costs included housing, meals, labor, and supplies, according to Ken Miller, assistant vice president of public safety.

“This change was not driven by costs,” Miller said. “Due to a lack of suitable space, according to federal sheltering guidelines, we simply do not have the ability to shelter large numbers of community members during extended emergency situations.”

After the 2017 hurricane season, Rollins commissioned an external evaluation of the shelter facilities by the Central Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Orange County Office of Emergency Management.

“We were advised that our facilities posed operational and logistical challenges, and that there are better options for the safety of our college community,” said Meghan Harte Weyant, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Starting this year, all students will be required to share their “Personal Hurricane Plan” with the college. If a student is staying locally and needs shelter, the college will organize transportation to a local American Red Cross-approved emergency shelter.

All students will be given at least 72 hours notice to have time to evacuate in the case of a hurricane.

“As a primarily residential campus in the middle of a hurricane-prone state, we have given this much thoughtful consideration,” said Weyant. “The ultimate safety of our students and community helped us arrive at this decision. We are very proud of the plans, processes and expertise of our staff to keep our campus community safe and informed in preparation for hurricanes.”

“We are fortunate to be located in Orange County, which has a robust American Red Cross presence,” said Weyant.

During Hurricane Irma, Orange County opened 21 shelters, including facilities for those with special or medical needs and pet-friendly shelters.

Students are advised to submit their hurricane plan to the school via FoxLink as soon as possible, and on-campus students must complete one as part of their housing contract.

“The Rollins Emergency Operations Center will work closely with the Orange County Office of Emergency Management, the Central Florida chapter of the American Red Cross, and the President’s Emergency Policy Group throughout a hurricane emergency event,” Weyant said.

The steps include:

  • Identifying and communicating local emergency hurricane shelter options
  • Providing transportation via buses or vans to a local emergency hurricane shelter
  • Communicating the status of students in local shelters to appropriate campus departments
  • Communicating a plan for resuming normal operations upon a campus damage assessment

This change is closer to the policies of other Florida campuses. According to University of Central Florida’s 2017 severe weather plan, all non-essential personnel on campus and all students will be sent home, and those who are unable to leave campus will be relocated to designated shelter areas.

Community members are advised to be familiar with emergency preparations and response by following the Rollins College Campus Safety social media pages, reviewing emergency operations plans, and connecting with Campus Safety at emergency.rollins.edu.

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