UCF's Arboretum educates students on natural land safety for Safe Knight Week

Landscape and Natural Resources' fire truck is parked next to the Timothy R. Newman Nature Pavilion on March 31 to be used for one of the safety course's demos. This truck is smaller than normal fire engines to allow first responders to easily go into the woods and travel on small trails.

UCF's Emergency Management team hosted a natural land safety course Wednesday afternoon at the Timothy R. Newman Nature Pavilion to outline the arboretum's new trail system and teach students about several resources and hazards in the area. 

Tara Vargovich, the training and exercise coordinator at UCF's Department of Emergency Management, said that mitigation and wildfires are two topics that have come up repeatedly over the past few years when discussing the university's recovery and response efforts.

"We thought it was really important to make sure that students were aware of what hazards do exist and kind of how can they protect themselves when they are on campus," Vargovich said.

Hazards that Brent Saulsbury, biologist and land management specialist, warned students about in the safety course included dangerous plant species, wildlife, and natural disasters. 

"The program isn't to scare you," Saulsbury said. "It's to get you comfortable and mitigate these hazards."

Saulsbury also introduced a new hiking trail system, in which hikers can scan a QR code that reveals their location on a map of the nature trail so that first responders know exactly where to go in the case of an emergency.

"We took that model from the federal system and other state parks and we brought it to UCF so that students feel more comfortable getting out and hiking," Saulsbury said. "We have about 800 acres of forest that can be hiked, biked, researched, and offer just an area to decompress and get away from school and work...and enjoy nature."

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