Power outages reveal holes in dorm evacuation procedures

A UConn Fire Department fire engine is seen along with Facilities Operations & Building Services vehicles outside the UConn Student Union responding to electrical issues near Laurel Hall on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. (Ashley Maher/The Daily Campus)

Several residence halls, including McMahon and Connecticut Commons, were evacuated as a precaution on Thursday due to the campus-wide power outage. Yet many students were unaware of the evacuations.

 “I had to learn secondhand,” said Sebastián Chamorro, fifth-semester political science major and CTC resident. “I had no idea that it had happened.”

Others were notified by their RAs of the potential commotion, though not of the relocation itself.

“The RA on our floor alerted everyone that we should try and find a friend to stay with so that we don’t have to evacuate later in the night if necessary,” said Richard Monroy, fourth-semester communication major, McMahon resident and Daily Campus employee.

No residence hall evacuation plan is currently adopted by the university and Division of Public Safety, according to their website. The only one that exists is a general campus-wide evacuation plan.

“It’s difficult to have a ‘one size fits all’ plan,” UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said. “Our intention is to have a guiding framework that can be a valuable starting point when such incidents occur.”

The decision to evacuate the affected residence halls was made by the Office of Emergency Management, Residential Life, and Public Safety, among other offices The Student Union was used as place to temporarily house the affected students.

The Field House and Student Union were considered as options for cots if students were evacuated overnight. Bedding and other materials were gathered in preparation for a “worst-case scenario,” Reitz said.

“A working group is currently reviewing options for evacuating and sheltering people at UConn in worst-case scenarios, and it will come up with a larger policy,” Reitz said. “This involves input from a large number of departments, such as Student Affairs and Residential Life, and has a lot of operational, logistical, planning, and potential financial implications.”


Sarah McNeal is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at sarah.mcneal@uconn.edu.