Magazine article University Business

Union U Sets Its Sights on Recovery

Magazine article University Business

Union U Sets Its Sights on Recovery

Article excerpt

ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEIR CAMPUS SUSTAINED heavy damage from a February 5 tornado, officials at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., began a strategy for assessment, recovery, and rebuilding.

Classes at the Christian liberal arts university were scheduled to resume on February 20, says news director Tim Ellsworth, "and given the extent of the damage to campus, we're thrilled with that timetable." He adds, "We're just trying to make decisions on where we are going forward. There's a lot of damage on campus, and we are just trying m make decisions and do the best we can for the students and everyone involved."

* COMMUNICATION EFFORTS. In the hours leading up to the tornado, Union's Resident Life Team monitored weather reports and sent updates to students through an intercom system. Later they led students down to the lower levels of the buildings. After the tornado struck, some students were trapped in rubble; as of press time in mid-February, five were still in the hospital with serious injuries. No deaths were reported.

Officials first sent news reports of the tornado's damage through traditional media sources and then launched an emergency blog, according to Ellsworth. As the emergency phase of the disaster concluded, daily information was posted on two websites:, and Union's main site, A Union Facebook site also carried information, along with supportive messages and offers of assistance from the public.

* ASSESSMENT. Seventeen campus buildings were damaged in some form or another. Approximately 40 percent of residence halls were destroyed, while another 40 percent were severely damaged. Academic and administrative buildings have been affected as well. Union got hit with damaging storms in 2001 and 2002 but, notes Ellsworth, it was nothing like this.

While an initial assessment team from TLM Associates, also in Jackson, found damage to each of the several buildings designed by the firm, they were "structurally fine," reports architect Ginger French. …

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