GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Calvin College joined Central Michigan and Ferris State universities Wednesday as the only West Michigan higher education institutions to be designated Storm Ready.
The strict criteria set by National Weather Service to earn the designation include providing signs and maps directing people to a safe location, and proving the institution can not only receive but also distribute severe weather information efficiently.
Wednesday's announcement was the culmination two year's worth of work at Calvin College.
"There's just a whole higher level of emergency preparedness here at Calvin than there used to be," said Campus Safety Dispatch Manager David VanHouten.
The campus is outfitted with an electronic notification system called RAVE that can instantly provide students and faculty with information about breaking severe weather events in addition to other campus emergencies.
"It has three different ways to notify people. Even if you're not around your computer, you have your cell phone, and you get alerts if you're not by your television," said student dispatcher Paige Stephens.
From Calvin's Campus Safety office, student employees and college safety personnel can monitor real-time emergency weather information and immediately transmit those messages with specific directions to students and staff.
"It would say something like, 'There is a tornado warning in effect from such and such a time to such and such a time. Please seek shelter,'" explained student dispatcher Hannah Smallegan. "We have templates and we also write our own as the situation calls for."
In addition to email messages, a text and voice message will be sent out.
The additional weather equipment cost about $10,000, which the college says is money well spent.
"The safety of our students is paramount. We want to educate them well but we want to be safe as well. We want people to be informed in an emergency," said Calvin College President Michael Le Roy.
In addition to the high-tech methods of distributing emergency weather information, the campus still has the old-fashioned but highly effective method of blaring tornado sirens.
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