Business Affairs’ Dedicated Response to Tropical Storm Elsa 

Storm clouds moving over the sky.

The University of Florida was ready for Tropical Storm Elsa before it made landfall in Florida. Emergency Management, Facilities Services, Gator Dining and the rest of Emergency Operations Team ensured the Gator community remained safe throughout the storm.

Storm preparations began early at UF. “Once the cone of uncertainty touches Florida, and it is about five days out, that’s when we start compiling safety information and sending out daily updates,” explains Francine Vincent, Assistant Director of Emergency Management. Using information from the National Hurricane Center, UF sends out daily updates regarding potential hurricanes and tropical storms like Elsa.

UF’s updates for Tropical Storm Elsa began on July 1 when the path for the storm was still unclear. “UF has influence in all 67 counties within Florida,” states Vincent. “We make sure to send out updates regardless of what part of Florida the storm is supposed to hit.” These updates consist of hurricane preparedness guides, safety recommendations, and updated storm tracking information.

When the storm is about three days out, the Department of Emergency Management consults with the weather service office in Jacksonville and the Emergency Operations team.  The University of Florida establishes a plan for the storm’s impact using advanced technology as well as conducting meetings with experts.

While Tropical Storm Elsa did not produce high wind speeds, it did cause heavy amounts of rainfall and raised concerns about flooding. In anticipation of this, the groups on the emergency operations team do a “fantastic amount of planning” and help direct Facilities Services, according to Vincent.

Jordan Benton, Assistant Director of Facilities Services, explains that planning is a huge focus of her division. For example, before Elsa’s arrival, Facilities Services cleaned out the drains to direct runoff, picked up debris that could serve as projectiles, and made sure areas prone to flooding were equipped with plenty of sandbags.

The workers on the facilities team did their best to ensure the community’s safety. “In spite of the campus closure, many of our staff members reported to campus that day, arriving early to be staged to respond to any reports of storm impact,” writes Benton.

During the storm, Gator Dining was up and running so faculty, staff and students at UF would have somewhere to eat. The dining hall and three pods (restaurants) were open to those who were on campus during the storm. Assistant Vice President of Business Services, Eddie Daniels, explains that the storm only emphasized the strong community at UF. He states, “there is a ‘culture of care’ at UF that permeates the entire campus — care for students, care for employees, and care for guests of the university. It is not surprising to see that culture of care amplified during emergency situations.”

When asked to describe the staff who worked to keep everyone safe during the hurricane, Vincent, Jordan, and Daniels all brought up the same word: “dedication.” Dedication to security, professionalism, and the school. Despite operating on distinctly different branches across Business Affairs at the University of Florida, the teams came together to ensure everyone rode out the storm as safely as possible. Their dedication keeps the Greater Gator Community whole, and their efforts are appreciated across campus.

Published: July 15th, 2021

Category: News