There’s been a lot of talk about how poorly Radford University handled last week’s flood. Aside from the facts, there are plenty of rumors floating around.
To start off, in addition to the rising water which, according to the National Weather Service, began around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the Claytor Lake Dam Authority drained the dam around midnight.
Dam authorities warned that the Radford area would be effected by the coming flood. They even set up an emergency alert hot line. The university claims that they began informing RAs at 10:30 but from what the RAs that I’ve talked to say is it was around midnight that the on-duty resident assistants were informed that there would be flooding in residential parking lot Z. Unfortunately, the severity of the flood was not conveyed to them.
The RAs working at the front desk in Muse were called at midnight and told to put up signs; however, I spoke to an RA in Muse who was off that night and was told that she wasn’t even informed until the text alerts went out at 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. the next morning.
Around 8 a.m., RAs were told to knock on students’ doors to tell them to move their cars even though lot Z had been completely underwater since 5 a.m.
The RAs are going to be blamed for negligence by RU officials who are essentially looking for someone to throw under the bus. But they only could know as much as RU told them. Resident assistants are students too, and they did do what they could to inform students. Moffett put up a post on their Facebook page, Trinkle sent out an email to all residents and Jefferson had an announcement over the PA system. There was definitely more that could have been done; some dorms weren’t told at all. Bolling resident Amanda Webb claimed:
“Bolling claims they made announcements using the intercom system and knocked on doors, [but] being on first floor, we heard none of that.”
“Madison Hall was not notified early enough. Someone put a little note on one door late afternoon but did not urge the seriousness of the situation. Also, I walked down to move my car from lot Z around 1 a.m. after a friend told me and there was not one person down there. I was by myself and in one of the emails I received, they said police were down there and people were spreading the word all night through every dorm door to door,” said Maddie Mckittrick.
Ultimately, it’s RU’s responsibility to make sure its students are taken care of, and in this case, that just didn’t happen.
Some students got lucky thanks to the Facebook page RU Memes, who warned their fans to move their cars as soon as the dam announced that they would be opening it up at midnight. Thanks to them, sophomore River Allen was able to save her car.
“Last night I was notified by RU Memes to move my car from Z lot. I walked down there at around 1, and everything seemed fine. I was a little skeptical about the whole deal, and reluctant to make the walk down to the parking lot to move my car. I woke up this morning and everything was underwater. My car is a 1995 Ford Explorer with a cracked windshield and very little insurance, and if it hadn’t been for them, my baby would have been completely totaled,” she said.
I’m disturbed, not that her car was saved, but that students found out about Lot Z from the watchful eye of RU Memes hours before RU sent out its first alerts — alerts which are supposed to inform us as soon as a threat is known.
The first campus-wide alert was issued at 5:30 a.m. Thursday, followed by another one around 7 a.m.. By that time is was too late for students to do anything but hike down to lot Z and admire their new boats.
A student who wished to remain anonymous went down to his car at 5 a.m. and said the water was already up to his car door. At 6 a.m., another student went down to get her car. Being parked in the higher parts of the lot, the water had only reached the bottom of her tires, but Radford authorities wouldn’t let her move it because of, as they said, potential risk of electrocution.
So why didn’t the Emergency Alert system not warn us sooner? Was it a product of negligence or sheer incompetence that cost students over a hundred thousand dollars in damages? Naturally, RU will suffer no consequences for it’s lack of urgency; they’ll leave that to the students and their insurance companies if they were lucky enough to have comprehensive coverage.
An issue I think will be overlooked in all of this is if we can’t count on the emergency alert system to notify us of an immediate flood risk, what could happen if there were to be a shooter on campus? Would we not find out about it until there was a body count? It’s scary to think of what might happen if RU can’t even alert students of a flood that they were told about hours in advance. Hopefully, something like that never happens at RU, but it’s best to be prepared.