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Arkansas State University President Says Better Disaster Plans Needed

Arkansas State University President Says Better Disaster Plans Needed  


      Arkansas colleges and universities should research how to take on extra students and faculty when other institutions are crippled by natural disasters, the head of Arkansas State University said earlier this week.

      ASU President Les Wyatt said Hurricane Katrina’s effect on Louisiana and Mississippi schools could be a lesson for Arkansas higher education institutions.

      “I think we need to look at how we would respond if a wide range of natural disasters were to happen to us,” Wyatt said at a meeting of the state university presidents.

      Colleges and universities have disaster response plans in place, but the plans don’t specifically deal with where faculty and students would be placed in case of a disaster.

      Many college students from the Gulf Coast region were displaced last year following Hurricane Katrina. In Arkansas, 282 students enrolled in colleges and universities in fall 2005 after they were displaced by the storm.

Wyatt’s northeast Arkansas school is located in an area that could be affected by an earthquake along the New Madrid fault.

      Wyatt said that while earthquakes are a potential threat to his campus, other disasters such as tornadoes are more likely to hit his school and others in Arkansas.

      “I’m thinking of students, faculty and all the people who would be thrown out on the street if we had a disaster like Tulane had,” Wyatt said.

“I realize the dislocation of a student during the school year can have a year-long affect,” Wyatt said. “They lose a year in their progress, and that’s a big price to pay in the life of a 20-year-old.”

      B. Alan Sugg, president of the University of Arkansas system, said the state’s colleges have disaster plans in place for backup of computer files and other procedures, but nothing to prepare for a situation like that faced by Gulf Coast states last fall.

      “It’s kind of hard to imagine what you do when something like that happens, but we probably need some better planning of what we would do in a disaster situation like this,” Sugg said.

— Associated Press

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