(*Teamworks is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and other states along the eastern seaboard. At 350 miles wide with winds that reached 185 miles per hour, Irma was the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Florida in more than a decade. This storm was particularly dangerous but, no matter the severity, schools and athletic departments in the southeastern United States understand that every natural disaster comes should be treated with urgency. Emergency preparedness plans are vital for these institutions to promote safety and mitigate damage when it arrives.
A time-lapse video captured by the Associated Press shows the impact Hurricane Irma had on the Miami Beach area. pic.twitter.com/F5wlJoUKM8
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 12, 2017
The Hurricanes were ready for the weather system from which they took their name. In August 2017, UM partnered with Teamworks department-wide, making Teamworks part of daily life for athletes to connect with their team. In times of emergency, UM coaches and administrators can leverage the app to send mass messages and users can find up-to-date contact information for staff and student-athletes from any device. That ease of communication could save lives.
In the weeks prior to the storm, UM’s staff realized that accounting for all student-athletes and staff would be crucial. So when early weather reports indicated the true severity of Irma, they set to work plugging all of their student-athletes and staff members into the system.
“We had agreed that summer to go completely across the board with Teamworks as a department,” recalls UM deputy athletic director and chief operations officer Jenn Strawley. “We were in the process of uploading all the information and being able to use it as a communications mechanism across the board when Irma was coming through. Through Craig Anderson’s leadership and the assistance of the wonderful folks at Teamworks, we were able to get that done.”
It proved vital when Irma arrived. Every student-athlete’s contact information was stored in the database. UM then had a way of communicating effectively and quickly with all of them when the storm made landfall. Administrators made the decision to temporarily cancel classes and home athletic events while giving the order for campus to evacuate. By strategically utilizing all communication tools at their disposal, they were also able to ensure student and staff safety. Each student-athlete could easily respond, letting their coaches and administrators know that they were safe. While the university itself sustained some physical damage, every student-athlete and staff member was safe and accounted for following the storm.
— Andrea Adelson (@aadelsonESPN) September 20, 2017
Administrators devised a plan of evacuation and were able to send it to each evacuee instantly. UM organized all of their contacts into groups, including a group of student-athletes and staff members who were evacuated from campus. Several dozen student-athletes and staffers did not have a safe place they could quickly evacuate to of their own accord. For that reason, UM offered them transportation to and housing in Orlando.
Each athletic team also was in its own group within the app, all executive staff were in a group, all coaches were in a group, and all student-athletes were in a group. UM gave all constituents the power to keep tabs and check in on one another during the emergency.
“Having all these people in the system meant we could deliver messaging in whatever groups we needed to with the most effective way (either email or text message), which enabled us to get to folks as quickly as we needed to,” says Strawley. “It gave us a mechanism for student-athletes to respond that they were safe. We were able to go team by team and sport by sport and ensure that all of our people were safe once the storm passed. We could then actually put together a report that said each of our student-athletes and staff were accounted for.”
For the future, coaches and administrators are able to add new athletes to the system so that they can be easily reached and kept in the loop. This way, when the next emergency arises, getting everyone to safety is significantly easier.
College athletics is not simply about wins and losses. Coaches and administrators have a responsibility to be sure that student-athletes are safe and looked out for in times of crisis. Ultimately, good communication and a little help from Teamworks allowed the Miami Hurricanes to do this during this particularly harrowing chapter in the school and city’s history.
To learn more about how Teamworks helps empower the sports world’s best, visit Teamworks.com today.