Frequent tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean have kept the university on guard for safety hazards. Some forecasters have predicted that Tropical Storm Gustav will hit near Wilmington this week, causing flooding and beach erosion.
Hurricane Floyd, which hit eastern North Carolina three years ago, caused the last major flooding in the region.
Sharon Boyd, associate vice chancellor at UNC-W, said close communication with area beaches concerning weather formations has been successful in guaranteeing students' safety.
"When there is a mandatory evacuation of the beaches of New Hanover County ... activity on campus will cease," Boyd said. "Residential halls are closed, students evacuate, (and) faculty and staff prepare for shutdown and leave."
The school takes special measures for international and out-of-state students who might not have a means to leave or place of refuge.
"We also make provisions for students that cannot go home," Boyd said. "They stay with families, and we have these families identified ahead of time."
Boyd said the university begins preparing students for possible evacuations when they first arrive on campus at the year's start. "We cover this during orientation and provide special training for (resident advisers) and (resident counselors) in the beginning of August," she said. "The housing office is already prepared with plans up to date and (they) have supplies ready."
Boyd said there were four evacuations from 1996-99. "We've had a lot of experience with this, unfortunately," Boyd said.
She said the evacuation plan is revised each time. This time the school is considering establishing a new policy involving voluntary evacuation.
"This year we would like to establish as our policy that when there is a voluntary evacuation in New Hanover County, we may have a voluntary evacuation for students," she said.
"We may give students leave of assignments and class," Boyd said. "It is intended for added flexibility."
Chris Harris, a sophomore at UNC-W from Roxboro, said the university prepares students efficiently to evacuate but he usually chooses to wait out the storm.
"Me and my brother just hung out here for the last few (storms)," Harris said. "Basically everybody else packs up and throws whatever they can in cars as quick as they can."
Harris said the entire university is involved in the storm watch.
"We were sitting in classes today -- the professors were telling us what to do if you are living on the shore," he said. "They give us about three to four days' warning."
Gina Pugh, UNC-W student body vice president, said although there is not a specific plan in place for student government during evacuation, the organization would assist as needed.
"If it were to come down to it, we would help on-campus residents and international students," Pugh said. "They have nowhere to go, so we would help in accommodating their needs. Most students would go home."
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