Pittsburg State University became the first university in the region served by the National Weather Service’s Springfield office to be declared “StormReady” this week, a distinction marked with a press conference and plaque presentation at PSU.

“But really what does that mean?” asked NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Runnels in his remarks at the Monday ceremony, during which he also declared Crawford County as StormReady. “Is it going to stop the tornado? The ice storm? The flood? No, not really.”

During past storms, including those that hit Pittsburg earlier this year, both PSU and the county have had to deal with damage caused by severe weather. Runnels noted, however, that local emergency management agencies have done a good job of working together in their storm response efforts.

“We have an understanding of how the university works with the city, and how the two of you guys work with the county as well,” Runnels said.

To earn the StormReady certification, the university and the county each had to meet several criteria, including the establishment of a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center, having multiple ways to receive severe weather forecasts and warnings and alert the public, setting up a system to monitor local weather conditions, promoting public readiness with students and staff, and developing a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes severe weather spotter training and emergency exercises.

“The safety of the students, faculty, and staff is paramount — that's what we’re all about," PSU President Steve Scott said in accepting the StormReady certification.

PSU Vice President for Student Life Steve Erwin’s division oversees a campus-wide alert system known as RAVE “that’s tied into various modes — text, voice, email, we can even take over desktops and run guest alerts,” Erwin said. “And so that’s been a good tool for us, not only in terms of warning but some general notifications and being able to provide updates.”

Director of University Police Stu Hite, who Scott credited for his leadership on storm preparedness, also spoke during the ceremony.

“We take the safety of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors very seriously," Hite said. "We have made it a priority to ensure that anytime there is the potential for severe weather, or severe weather is happening, we communicate quickly and effectively and have a process in place.”

Hite also thanked the NWS for the role it plays in ensuring the university and area agencies receive accurate and up-to-date information about severe weather, enabling them to respond accordingly.

“We really appreciate that cooperation and ability to interact with you guys on a very routine basis,” Hite said. “So it’s a great partnership — and it starts before the storm comes.”