HILLSDALE, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – As tornado sirens wailed across Hillsdale on May 7, the reality of the threat dawned on several students, including this reporter, who were unsure where to take shelter.

Amidst rising fear, many students, myself included, felt uncertain and unguided, relying on scant communications when clear directives were most needed.

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“I got an Apple weather notification and I heard that Security made an announcement to students in the library, but that was it,” junior Anne Coates said.

When contacted by Michigan News Source, Hillsdale College Campus Security said that the college’s safety protocol includes comprehensive discussions on emergency procedures during orientation and visible safety flyers around campus. There is currently a lack of easily accessible online resources specifically for emergency situations like tornadoes.

Yet, this experience was not unique to us. Across Michigan, as tornadoes carved paths of destruction through Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Branch, and Cass counties—all under a state of emergency—the readiness of collegiate institutions was put to the test.

The varied responses from Michigan colleges to the recent tornadoes indicate the need for a more streamlined approach to emergency management across the state.

The University of Michigan sets a high standard with its detailed emergency protocols. During severe weather threats, the community is informed via the UM Emergency Alert system, which sends out notifications across multiple platforms. The university advises everyone to seek shelter in predefined safe locations and continuously monitor local weather updates. For more information on their emergency procedures, visit the University of Michigan’s Division of Public Safety & Security’s website.

Michigan State University boasts a sophisticated MSU Alert system that notifies the community about impending severe weather and other emergencies. The system’s effectiveness is supported by an infrastructure that includes emergency phones and robust surveillance, ensuring that everyone on campus knows where to go
and what to do when a tornado approaches. Details on their safety protocols can be found on MSU’s emergency management page.

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Wayne State University employs the Wayne State Alerts system to communicate with the campus during emergencies. Their safety procedures emphasize seeking immediate shelter in designated areas and assisting those with disabilities. The university’s commitment extends to maintaining emergency items like flashlights and radios to enhance readiness. Learn more about their safety measures at Wayne State’s emergency procedures page.

At Grand Valley State University, the GVSU Alert! system is activated the moment a tornado warning is issued, halting all campus activities. Designated safety locations are clearly marked across campus to provide refuge from dangerous weather. After the danger has passed, the university issues an “All Clear” notification, signaling when it’s safe to resume normal activities. More on their emergency protocols can be accessed on GVSU’s emergency website.

While these are just a few examples of safety procedures at Michigan colleges, it is clear that simply having a protocol in place is insufficient. The real test of any emergency plan lies in its execution—how well it is communicated and how effectively it prepares those it aims to protect. Colleges must not only craft meticulous emergency plans  but also prioritize regular communication to minimize confusion and maximize safety.