UK participates in statewide tornado drill


Damage from a tornado in West Liberty, Ky. March 3, 2012. Photo by Brandon Goodwin | Staff

McKenna Horsley

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UK participated in a statewide tornado drill Tuesday morning as a part of Kentucky’s first Severe Weather Awareness Week.

At about 10:07 a.m., UK started the tornado drill by sending out an alert via email, phone call, blue emergency phone towers and text message. The alert was sent to UK students, faculty and staff. An all clear was given at about 10:15 a.m.

Gov. Matt Bevin signed a proclamation to make the week of Feb. 22 to 28 Severe Weather Awareness Week on Feb. 15, according to a press release from Kentucky Emergency Management.

Rachel Blake, a political science freshman, answered her phone when the drill started while she was in Patterson Office Tower but continued working on her computer.

“(UK should) send out an email saying like if this wasn’t a drill what to do,” Blake said. “I feel like an email would be more effective because I feel like a lot more people check their emails.”

Austin Smith, a public health junior, knew the tornado drill would happen because a teacher informed him during class a few days ago. He feels UK somewhat informs students about safety precautions.

“I was next to one of those (blue emergency towers) and it was saying, ‘This is a drill. Find shelter immediately,’” Smith said.

UK Police Captain Thomas Matlock oversees crisis management and preparedness for UK. He said this was UK’s first tornado drill “at this level.” A similar drill occurred at UK in 2013, but has been cancelled in recent years because of severe weather.                   

During his preliminary review of surveys from tornado drill participants, Matlock said “most of the reviews are positive.”

Matlock said students need to opt-in and receive UK Alerts to be aware of possible emergencies. Students can change their UK Alert preferences under the UK Alert tab in the banner on My UK.

“We understand that some students don’t opt-in for text messaging. And text messaging is the quickest way that we can alert people,” Matlock said. “We actually are able to send about 40,000 text messages in under two-and-a-half minutes.”

Matlock said sending alerts via email is harder for UK Police because UK’s email system delays delivery to the more than 57,000 emails subscribed to UK Alerts.

“I would tell (students) to look into developing a personal preparedness plan for themselves and also what we call a ‘go bag.’ It’s a backpack that has basic necessities,” Matlock said. He suggested including water and food in the bag and to research more possible items to include.

Matlock said that calls and emails to the UK Police Department increased over the last few days because of inquires about the tornado drill.

“We hope that the more of these drills that we do, the more people will become aware of their location and be more prepared,” Matlock said.

Students, faculty and staff can review UK Police’s preparedness and planning tips at LiveSafe app users can also access similar information by looking through the “Emergency Procedures” tab under “UK Resources.”