As Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida, the University of Central Florida is making student safety its first priority.
“We haven’t had a big storm at UCF in about 10 years,” said Courtney Gilmartin, public information officer for UCF Police. “But the thing that’s awesome is that we spent so much time training for this.”
UCF will have a team of faculty staying overnight at its Emergency Operating Center where they will be monitoring the storm and working with UCFPD to ensure all students remaining on campus will be safe. Gilmartin is part of that team and urges students to think before they do something that could put them in danger.
“Once the storm gets to a certain level, it’s going to be hard for officers to leave to take calls, so that’s why we’re really encouraging people to be smart,” Gilmartin said. “A selfie is not worth it—stay inside, be safe.”
The university announced Wednesday that campus will be closed through Saturday until further notice. The Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona, Center for Emerging Media in Downtown Orlando, and the Rosen College of Hospitality Management will also be closed due to Matthew.
Student in certain on-campus dorms will also be evacuated and prohibited from staying in their rooms past 7 p.m. The dorms being evacuated are Lake Claire, Neptune, Apollo, Libra, Nike, Hercules and all Greek housing. Those students have a designated ride out location for the storm, where they should bring at least 72-hours worth of food, toiletries and bedding.
Students living at Towers, Rosen, Northview, Knights Circle and Pointe at Central are not required to evacuate.
Regardless, in a university-wide alert, UCF encouraged students living on campus to make alternative plans to ride out the storm elsewhere if possible.
Some students are doing just that.
Kristianna Nicolai, freshman mechanical engineering major, would rather make the short drive home to Winter Haven than stay on campus.
“I’m just going to go home,” Nicolai said. “We’ve got a generator and stuff there so it should be fine.”
Other students that don’t live that close to UCF were still finding ways to get home before Matthew hits Florida.
Freshman journalism major Jason Beede bought a plane ticket to his hometown of Key West, where Matthew is not expected to impact greatly. Beede said that while hurricanes are scary, out of all the natural disasters, he considers them to be the safest because of the amount of time people have to prepare beforehand. Still, Beede said he’d rather be home than at UCF.
“I’m used to hurricanes—I grew up with them, that’s not a problem for me,” Beede said. “But being at college is a little different.”
Some students didn’t have any transportation back home, so staying at UCF was their only option.
Kyle Pulusan, freshman computer engineering major, is one of those students. Pulusan lives in Nike and will be riding out the storm with other students in Classroom Building I. Despite the situation, Pulusan said that he’s excited for the storm in a weird way.
“I’ll be with a bunch of other people my age and we get to have fun with card games with no electricity and all that,” Pulusan said. “No one is going to be on their phones. It feels like a social event.”
Matthew is predicted to impact Florida Thursday. It is looking to be a category four, with wind gusts of up to 130 mph on Friday. Many people have stocked up on water, non-perishable food items and supplies such as batteries and flashlights in preparation for the storm.
Gilmartin said that while 911 will be there in case of an emergency, students should make safe choices during the hurricane.
“Keep in mind that the storm impacts everything, including police officer’s ability to respond,” Gilmartin said. “So don’t take a chance. Don’t put yourself at risk.”