EDITORIAL: Urge University to improve its emergency preparedness
The night of Oct. 29 saw countless frustrated students as a violent storm resulted in the loss of power to all four Charles River Apartments for nearly nine hours. According to an email sent out by Area Coordinator Amanda Drapcho at 7:04 p.m. that night, “the power outage was caused due to a faulty power line which caused damage to a tree and therefore, resulted in a power outage across all four Charles River apartments.”
Power was not restored to the Charles River Apartments until around 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 30, and while this board recognizes that such occurrences are unavoidable and do take time to remedy, the Department of Community Living’s response was inadequate and demonstrated a lack of preparedness.
Drapcho first emailed residents at 5:44 p.m., informing them of the power outage, and emailed a second time with a more detailed follow-up an hour and 20 minutes later. In her follow-up email, Drapcho reassured students that the BranVan would be running as scheduled but stopping in Charles River Lot instead, and that card swipe access was still working. Unfortunately, the latter ceased to be true soon thereafter, and locked-out students had to contact DCL or University Police directly to be let into their rooms, a fact Drapcho only communicated to the residents in a 10:59 p.m. email, leaving several students stranded and confused in the rain. Despite this lapse in communication, there are numerous reports of Drapcho and Community Advisor Vineet Vishwanath ’18 spending the night running up and down the Charles River Apartments letting residents into their rooms, an effort for which this board commends them.
Unfortunately, between allowing students into their rooms and communicating with the necessary authorities involved, Drapcho and DCL were left with little time to worry about the numerous other side effects of the power outage. Given that power was out past 2 a.m., the only building on campus accessible to displaced residents was the Shapiro Campus Center, since the library and most other buildings with common spaces close at 2 a.m. Additionally, the BranVan stopped running at 2:30 a.m., right around when the power came back on, which meant that most displaced residents had to brave the storm with winds gusting up to 45mph to get back to their rooms. Had DCL codified plans for such emergency situations, including provisions for a staging area for residents and transport for them, these additional impacts on students could have been mitigated.
This board urges DCL to take this experience as a learning opportunity and encourages them to formulate executable plans for a multitude of such non-life-threatening emergencies impacting large swathes of students. This would alleviate the pressure on an area coordinator in the moment and ensure that nothing is overlooked amid the flurry of everything going on. New England is no stranger to extreme weather and freak storms, and with winter fast approaching, there is an increasing chance of another such incident occurring, with harsher conditions for impacted students to face.