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RPAC ‘good location’ for Ohio State evacuation plan

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

After a water main break forced Park-Stradley Hall, Baker Hall East and West and the Ohio Union to close Sunday, some students doubt the university’s ability to evacuate students.
About 2,000 students were evacuated from their dorms and told to sleep in the RPAC, but the majority of students found somewhere else to spend the night.
Miranda McClendon, a second-year in city and regional planning and a Morrill Tower resident, said the way the university handled the evacuation worked, but that she had some concerns.
“I guess nobody knew the real evacuation plan,” McClendon said.
In response to these concerns, Dave Isaacs, communications and media relations manager of Student Life, said the evacuation information was released in the most efficient way.  
“Overall, this is a plan to evacuate each building in case of an emergency,” Isaacs said. “The staff receives extensive training in all aspects of emergency procedures.”
Isaacs said all residence hall staff, from the hall directors to the residence advisors, are trained in a range of emergency protocols, which is how hall staff know what to do in the case of an evacuation.
“The priority in any situation is that the students and everyone involved are safe,” Isaacs said, explaining that what the hall staff learn in their training is to get students out of the dorms. Resident advisers communicate to the students by going from room to room spreading information.
Isaacs said despite protocol for getting the students out, there is a simple form of communication that tells students to get out of the building more effectively than RAs ever could – the fire alarm.
For those who were not in the building at the time of the evacuation, the university used email and text alerts to inform students, faculty and staff of the emergency, Isaacs said.
However, some people said they felt like they fell through the cracks of information dissemination.
Dylan Champer, a fifth-year in animal sciences and a Park-Stradley resident, was one such student. He said he did not know what was going on, but made it out of the building safely after hearing the fire alarm and warnings from his RA. He was not signed up for email and text alerts and had no information aside from knowing he had to get out.
“I would have liked to have know(n) more of what was going on,” Champer said. “Rather than just like being right outside and having to kind of cherry pick information from different people.”
While he said he knew he was safe, Champer thought the way people left Park-Stradley could have been improved. He said the line to exit the building was backed up in the stairwell.
“I know if I told my mom that I was evacuated and I was standing still for like five minutes of the time, I am pretty sure she would be upset,” Champer said.
Isaacs said at this time, he does not know of a solution for the clogged stairwell.
There were concerns about the evacuation plan post-evacuation as well.
McClendon said she is concerned about the resources available to evacuees. She said the university should “have stuff on hand that can accommodate people who need sleeping materials, have toothpaste, or soap or something of that manner.”
Isaacs said the RPAC was always the place where students would stay in the event of a situation like the water main break.
“The RPAC is a good location because it has facilities such as showers and bathrooms,” Isaacs said.
As far as giving students resources such as sleeping bags and toiletries, Isaacs said there really is not a need for that. The closed dorms were open Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to allow students to enter the dorms for 30 minutes to retrieve the things they needed.
Despite the confusion Champer experienced during the evacuation, he was pleased about one thing.
“They definitely got everyone out,” Champer said.
Baker Hall East and West and the Ohio Union reopened Monday at about 7 a.m.
The 1,200 Park-Stradley residents were able to return to their dorms Wednesday afternoon after being unable to sleep there for three nights, but did not have access to hot water, drinking water, heating or air conditioning in their rooms.
Molly Ranz Calhoun, associate vice president of Student Life said the non-functional heating and cooling systems could take weeks to repair.
Park-Stradley opened Fall Semester after being closed as part of a $171 million South Campus renovation project. The building was occupied for about a month before the water main break.

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