Kyle Swenson co-wrote this report.
As a police officer who served for 40 years, University of Central Florida Police Chief Richard Beary is no stranger to hurricanes. He even served as part of the public safety response when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992.
“The thing that happened with Andrew was that it was a small storm until it made landfall and that one just caught people by surprise because no one expected it,” he said. “On the law enforcement side, the public safety side, we learned a lot from that.”
Beary is applying those experiences ahead of Irma, which is expected to hit Central Florida on Sunday. Even though it is expected to hit as a Category 3 storm, he is not taking any chances. In preparation for the storm, he and his team have been working 15-hour days and they plan on working round the clock to keep students safe.
“I think Harvey has gotten people’s attention. People didn’t think it was that big a storm, but every storm has its own unique personality. You can’t make assumptions. You have to be prepared for the worst,” he said.
Knight News sat down with Beary to discuss UCF’s evacuation plans for on-campus residents, what students riding out the storm on campus should expect, and whether students living off-campus can use the parking garages.
Q. When does UCF PD need students to arrive at the on-campus ride-out locations?
A. Ride-out locations begin checking people in on Saturday at 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. This is because tropical storm winds will be coming in by Saturday evening and by then we want everyone in. Get here. You might have to miss the party, but those are adult decisions.
Q: Can people who stay in Lake Claire and Towers ride out the storm in their dorms, or do they have to evacuate to the ride-out locations?
A: Students cannot stay in Lake Claire. It is a very old structure and we don’t feel comfortable with them being in there. The Towers on the other hand is a newer structure that was built to newer hurricane standards. The only thing that may happen depending on the intensity of the storm is we may need to relocate them from the top floors, but in general they’ll be able to stay.
Q: What about students in Neptune?
A: They’re not on our approved ride-out locations.
Q: What will conditions be like for students in the ride-out location?
A: The power will more than likely go out and there are no windows. It’s going to get hot, there are no showers and it’s going to be a long weekend. That’s the cold, hard reality of it.
Q: How long do you think we’ll be losing power?
A: There’s two things that will affect that. The wind speed that hits us and how much water we get. Those are what are going to drive the recovery effort. I can answer to our system on campus. The issue isn’t our system; it’s the feeders that come into us. Our system can be great, but if they can’t get the power to us, then we’re not going anywhere. Some buildings have generators, but the vast majority do not. And the buildings that have generators, like the ride-out locations, are really used to run emergency equipment and keep the lift stations going so we can use the bathrooms. They’re not going to run air-conditioning. It’s not going to be for comfort-control systems.
Q: Students are being encouraged to bring their own supplies, but is UCF going to provide provisions as well?
A: We will have stuff to supplement. People will have to bring their own things, especially if they’re on a special diet. That’s as good as it’s going to get. We have no food services; a lot of the people who run those are students. And students are not alone in this. We were also told the same thing. I brought five days worth of food to my office. Most of our students are adults and again have to make adult decisions.
Q: Can students park on campus?
A: The protocol will be that if you’re an on-campus resident you can park on campus. If you are in affiliated housing and will be riding out on campus, we will be providing a parking pass and they can park here too. Everybody else, we don’t want their vehicles here because it could interfere with our recovery efforts.
Q: Do those rules apply for Garage F as well?
A: Yes. Again, we are already setting up equipment for Duke Energy, and those take up a lot of space and we just can’t have cars in those parking lots. That’s from Governor Scott.
Q: Will school be open again on Tuesday?
A: If it is what they say it will be, probably not. But we saw what Hurricane Matthew did – at the last minute it veered away from Central Florida, which was a good thing for us since we were able to open right back up. I’m not so confident this time.
Q: What is the best way for students to contact their family during the storm?
A: Service may go out, but text messages will work. After the storm, make sure everyone knows where you’re at, but don’t tie up the phone line. If you call home, be sure to make it a short call or text message because a lot of people are trying to use the network. UCF will communicate with students in different ways to make sure you know what the updates are.
Q: How is UCF planning to handle students who left town for the storm when they re-open?
A: The university is trying to have a contingency plan. Number one is life safety. After that, we’ll worry about the academic schedule. But the university is sensitive to that and a lot of factors go into those decisions.
For more information regarding UCF’s hurricane preparation can be found here.