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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU to Conduct Tornado Preparedness and Emergency Notification System Drill on March 21

The February 24, 2016 severe storm system that spawned eight tornadoes, caused five deaths, and inflicted damage to more than 400 structures provided a stark reminder that tornadoes occur in Virginia. Old Dominion University (ODU) had two active tornado warnings in effect that afternoon and evening for all University locations. On Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at 9:45 a.m., ODU, in conjunction with other Virginia institutions of higher education, state agencies, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), and the National Weather Service (NWS), will participate in the statewide tornado drill, which is an annual effort to prepare members of the University community for tornado emergencies and test public warning systems.

"[In February 2016], many areas of the state were under a tornado warning, and some had to quickly get themselves, their families, and co-workers to safety," said VDEM State Coordinator Dr. Jeff Stern. "But an actual tornado warning isn't the time to figure out where you should go or what to do to stay safe. We're encouraging schools, employers, and individuals to use the statewide drill on March [21] as an opportunity to test their tornado emergency procedures."

The drill will start at approximately 9:45 a.m. with an activation of the ODU Alerts emergency notification system (ENS). Official notifications during the approximately 15-minute drill may be made through text messaging, desktop computer and digital signage override alerts, voice phone calls, student/faculty/staff email, the ODU website, and outdoor loudspeakers (installed at the Norfolk campus, intended for exterior notification only). Students, faculty and staff who have not already signed up to receive alerts are encouraged to visit the ODU health and safety website to register for the free service.

For campus locations with a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio installed, a NWS-issued tone alert will sound and a test message will be displayed to simulate what people would hear or see during an actual tornado warning. Local radio stations, TV stations, and cable outlets will broadcast the test message via the Emergency Alert System.

"The deadly tornado outbreak on Feb. 24, [2016] was a reminder to all Virginians that tornadoes can occur any month of the year. When a tornado watch is issued for your area, you should prepare to seek safe shelter. If a tornado warning is issued for your location, seek shelter immediately," said Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service in Wakefield.

Jared Hoernig, ODU's Associate Director of Emergency Management, added the following tips:

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar.

When a tornado warning is issued, normal daily activities should temporarily cease and building occupants should shelter-in-place in the lowest interior room or area, away from windows.

Elevators should not be used during a tornado warning.

While sheltering-in-place, occupants should crouch as low as possible, protect their head and neck, and remain in place until the all-clear message is issued.

If outdoors, persons should seek the closest substantial shelter or lay flat in a ditch or depression, covering their head and neck.

For more information on severe weather safety and other hazards, visit www.odu.edu/emergency and follow ODU Office of Emergency Management on Twitter (@MonarchReady), Facebook (ODU Office of Emergency Management, and Instagram (odu_oem). Registration for the tornado drill is not necessary, but participants can learn more and show their support by signing up at www.ReadyVirginia.gov. In recent years, 1 million Virginians have signed up for the drill. The Statewide Tornado Drill, promoted throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, is part of ODU's emergency management program.

In the event of an actual emergency, ODU's tornado preparedness and ENS drills will be rescheduled for Wednesday, March 21 at 9:45 a.m. Questions should be directed to the Office of Emergency Management: oem@odu.edu or (757) 683-5116.