Extreme Weather Preparedness for Institutions of Higher Education
Cover Image Photo Credit: Beth Shepard-Rabadam, Associate Director, Temple University Ambler Campus


needs assessment
disaster response
campus health

How to Cite

Stolow, J., Cloutier, M. ., Amy Freestone, & Kathleen Salisbury. (2022). Extreme Weather Preparedness for Institutions of Higher Education: Impacts and Lessons Learned to Inform Campus Health. CommonHealth, 3(2), 87–97. https://doi.org/10.15367/ch.v3i2.536


BACKGROUND: On September 1, 2021, a tornado touched down at Temple University’s Ambler, PA campus. The tornado, a byproduct of Hurricane Ida, damaged most of the buildings on the campus, destroyed thousands of academic resources and killed hundreds of irreplaceable trees, plants, and natural resources. The purpose of this study was to identify needs among the Ambler campus community, document the impact of the tornado, and capture student, faculty, and staff perceptions toward disaster preparedness, climate change, and lessons learned for future disaster preparedness.

METHODS: Data were collected in partnership with the Ambler campus community. A Rapid Needs Assessment, influenced by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) CASPER Assessment, was utilized. The needs assessment was comprised of a mixed-method approach via a site visit, an online survey, and in-depth interviews.

RESULTS: A total of 74 survey responses and 20 interviews were collected. Survey and interview respondents included students, faculty, and staff. Findings indicated that participants: felt unprepared for the tornado; experienced a variety of social, professional, mental, and physical impacts; and require additional training, education, and communication for future emergencies and natural disasters.

CONCLUSION: As climate change continues to impact weather patterns, institutions of higher education must prepare for more frequent, more severe, and unprecedented natural disasters. It is time to ensure that (1) campuses have transparent protocols in place for the full spectrum of possible weather events, and (2) that students, faculty, and staff receive comprehensive education, training, and communication about such weather-related events and potential negative outcomes.