The sun is shining again in the Sunshine State, and many Lynn University employees returned to campus today, after category 3 Hurricane Irma ushered Florida into a state of emergency early last week.
“Our leadership has great pride in how our university community came together,” said Lynn President Kevin M. Ross. “From our emergency management team, first responders and employees who worked tirelessly to keep our campus safe, to our students who stayed on campus … it has been amazing to watch our Lynn family over the past several days.”
On Sept. 5, Lynn activated its event and emergency management plan, maintained by the Department of Campus Safety, which defines procedures for inclement weather, including tropical storms and hurricanes. Recovery activities are still underway ahead of normal campus activities resuming on Sept. 18.
Hurricane Irma hits
Planning pays off. At the first signs that Irma might impact our area, the university’s facilities team began taking steps behind the scenes to prepare campus. Activities included lowering water levels in the lakes, clearing roofs and drain mechanisms, testing generators, ordering warehouse supplies and more. As it became more apparent that the storm would impact our area, the team began securing campus, including removing patio furniture and awnings, securing construction sites and more.
Just before the storm, employees designated as first responders moved onto campus. They stayed in the gym throughout the storm and helped with recovery efforts just after.
Communications were integral before, during and after the storm. We established a call center, in partnership with crisis response partners Black Swan Solutions, to ensure parents, students and employees could speak with real people about planning and preparations, campus status and any other concerns. The Lynn community was also informed via an alert site, email, voice and text, and social media.
The campus sustained damage that can be expected following a storm of Irma’s size and duration. The emergency management team’s after-storm assessment reported that the grounds were covered in debris and had significant tree damage and several downed light poles. Minor water intrusion was found in several administrative and classroom buildings, and facilities reported various mechanical issues, which have since been almost completely restored.
Despite the damage and what would become a four-day power outage, spirits remained high. Campus facilities, including Lynn Dining by Sodexo, and the Student Affairs staff kept students comfortable with hot meals and continuous snacks.
Office of Students Affairs staff established “Camp Irma,” a generator-powered space in the Wold Performing Arts Center, which became an overnight hang out for students. Staff prepared entertainment and programming, including karaoke, video games, movie nights, “hot” yoga and more.
Getting back to normal
“Our leadership has great pride in how our university community came together.”
Lynn President Kevin M. Ross
Wednesday, Sept. 13, Lynn announced that power was restored and regular campus activities would resume Monday, Sept. 18. By Friday, campus began to come back to life with student services reopening and sidewalks bustling with returning students. Construction on the much-anticipated Christine E. Lynn University Center also resumed.
While some students had to cease coursework due to the storm, Lynn’s learning management system, Canvas, allowed those who are able to continue their studies outside the classroom. Special accommodations will continue to be made, as needed, for students and employees still recovering from the storm.
Looking ahead, all students will be welcomed back to campus during a special NFL Monday Night Football event with a tailgate menu created by Sodexo’s executive chef Greg Bibb and a live DJ.
Lynn is grateful to its partners, including Charlie Wagner, Dean Abbott, Doug Hedden Electric, Sea & Land Fuel, Sodexo, Sports Turf One, Terracon Consultants and Zimmerman Tree Service, for helping to restore campus so quickly following the storm.
By the numbers
- 11 days of regularly scheduled classes and campus activities were postponed or cancelled.
- 388 students remained on campus through the storm.
- 94 first responders and 118 family members checked into the gym and helped with recovery immediately following the storm.
- Campus was under a 39-hour lockdown.
- Campus endured 4 days without power, from Sept. 10 until Sept. 13.