Dordt issues preparedness email after tornado threat

Dayna Wichhart-Staff Writer

At around 1 a.m. in his East Campus apartment, senior Ian Nelson fell asleep. An alarm from his phone startled him awake.

“TORNADO WARNING in this area until 1:30 a.m.,” The phone read.

Nelson woke his roommates to inform them of the situation and knocked on neighboring apartment doors.

The campus—students and staff—was asleep. For those whose phone did not wake them, the wind and rain blew and poured without their notice. The Sioux Center tornado sirens did not sound, even as severe weather battered nearby towns.

The radar showed weather patterns ideal for a tornado. Nothing touched down.

At Dordt University, confusion ruled at that early Friday morning. Derek Buteyn, the associate dean of students and director of residence life, said RAs, CDAs, and LCAs are equipped to handle situations with inclement weather and know how to locate their respective tornado shelters. It’s all part of their residence life training, according to Buteyn.

“We don’t run any drills,” Buteyn said. “But they are aware of how to manage a crisis.”

That night, Buteyn texted leaders instructions, mobilizing RAs and CDAs to gather up their floors and wings and lead them into the basements of their residence halls.

When Nelson walked to his apartment’s tornado shelter, he met a locked door. In the moment, he did not worry—his apartment resided on the lowest level of East Campus. But, the following morning, he voiced his concerns about the locked tornado shelter to Buteyn.

“Those doors are always locked,” Buteyn said. “That’s where we store our HVAC systems and computer servers, so keeping those doors unlocked would not be a good idea.”

The following afternoon, Buteyn sent an email to all Dordt students explaining procedures and tornado shelters for each building on campus. But to some, the email seemed like something staff had forgotten to send out earlier.

At the beginning of the year students are getting inundated with emails,” Buteyn said. “We don’t want it to just be another email you get and just don’t look at.”

Buteyn also mentioned the unusual occurrence of the tornado threat in the season. Most tornadoes in Iowa occur in the spring, if at all. In the same way Dordt sends out a fire safety email during fire prevention month, they send out an email regarding severe weather (including tornadoes) in the spring.

In an extreme situation, Butyen says there is an emergency response team that can text all students of a threat immediately.

For East Campus residents like Nelson, the student body-wide email recommended residents take shelter in Kuyper basement. Nelson found the suggestion to run across the campus green in dangerous weather “a little frustrating.”

“In East campus we get ignored for a lot of things.” Nelson said.

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