Swift, Judith [faculty advisor, Department of Communication Studies]
disaster; hurricane; planning; university
If a hurricane were to hit URI in the upcoming fall semester what would happen? This project is a thorough evaluation of the current URI plan, how it works, how it doesn’t and who has the answers. The project is framed from an information systems perspective. The analysis of the system is based on where vital information is stored, how it is communicated when needed and who is involved. To find the answers to these questions, in depth interviews were conducted with key emergency personnel. Among them are URI’s Director of Safety and Risk, J Kevin Culley, Major Baker of the URI police department, the South Kingstown Police’s EMA point person, Lt. Horoho, and Richard Horowitz, the program coordinator of the Rhode Island Disaster Animal Response Team. URI’s plan revolves around the assumption that a hurricane threat will give them at least 48 hours notice before the storm hits URI. South Kingstown’s plan revolves around 72 hours notice. Professor Ginis of the Graduate School of Oceanography stated that hurricanes of the nature that would hit RI would only reasonably give 24 hours notice. This is only one major flaw in the current system. Others include inability to control traffic, assumption that all but 1000 students will be able to successfully evacuate in plenty of time, serious risk of fuel shortage, and lack of ability to communicate if phone lines get overhauled with too many calls. The way information is stored and transmitted throughout the planning process is not centralized, inconsistent and relies heavily on a collection of scattered e-mails, papers and phone calls. This project proposes a system where contact numbers, communication channels, plan contingencies and follow up information is stored in writing as well as electronic form and available to all the people involved in facilitating disaster management.