Leadership Profile

Emergency Response Team Works Overtime During ‘Sandy’

Campus Police

Hurricane Sandy damageHurricane Sandy left town on Tuesday, but remnants of the powerful storm dot the Cedar Crest College campus in the form of downed trees and other debris that are in the process of being cleared.

The fact that the campus cared for hundreds of residential students throughout the storm and was back in full operation on Thursday for 2500 students, faculty and staff was a testament to the handful of “essential employees” who practically called Cedar Crest “home” for three wet and wild days. Below is a timeline of how these workers went above and beyond for the College:

  • Thursday, Oct. 25: Cedar Crest’s Emergency Response Team began a series of meetings to develop a plan to deal with this weather crisis. The response team was comprised of representatives from Facilities, Grounds, Campus Police, Residential Life, General Services, Parkhurst Dining Services, Student Affairs, Finance and Administration, and Tompkins College Center.
  • Friday, Oct. 26: Facilities (Maintenance & Grounds) checked all generators, cleaned all gutters and drains, picked up debris and purchased necessary supplies (batteries/flashlights/etc).
  • Sunday, Oct. 28: College President Carmen Twillie Ambar, Chief Financial Officer Audra Kahr, and Provost Elizabeth Meade, discussed campus safety for Monday and Tuesday and decided to close the campus due to the impending storm.
  • Monday, Oct. 29: By morning, all essential personnel reported and were staggered in shifts to provide ample coverage throughout the day. The teams of essential personnel were led by supervisors, Dave DeBlass, Will Rantz, Mark Vitalos, Kelly Steinmetz and Dean Piacentini.


(Left) Director of Residence Life Kelly Steinmetz and Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Ann Ryan were instrumental in helping students find safety and comfort in the dorms during the storm.

Monday’s night shift crew was kept busy with tree damage and broken windows across campus. They were also checking generators, ensuring they were fueled and firing. On Monday and Tuesday, food and water was brought into the residence halls to keep students from having to venture out into danger’s way. Residence Life staff—with the aid of resident advisors—ensured that the students were calm and safe, dealt with emergencies such as student illnesses, did regular checks of the building, and provided activities for the resident students.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 30: President Ambar, CFO Kahr, and Grounds Supervisor Rantz took a tour of the campus to assess damage—mostly downed trees—and formulated a plan for cleanup that will continue for about a week. Kim Owens, VP for Student Affairs, checked in with staff to assess how they were faring with providing for the students with limited power.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31: Another day of hectic cleanup to ready campus for a Thursday opening.
  • Thursday, Nov. 1: Classes met as scheduled and the campus is back to the business of education.

Food Services Director Dean Piacentini helped keep students well fed during the severe weather. Food was often brought to the residence halls to keep students from having to venture outside.
Food Services Director Dean Piacentini helped keep students well fed during the severe weather. Food was often brought to the residence halls to keep students from having to venture outside.

In addition to these efforts, Webmaster Paul Pastrone and the campus web team posted important updates to the Cedar Crest website during the storm. They did so despite periodically being “power challenged” themselves, and having to seek power in any number of locations to make these posts.

Kahr said the plan could not have been executed without everyone involved making sacrifices for the good of the College.

“I think what is so important is that all of these folks put their families’ needs aside to be here at the college, and worked hard to make sure we were able to have a safe environment,” said Kahr. “That takes a special group of people and I am thrilled to have them on our team.”

A Cedar Crest College grounds worker uses the Cyclone Rake to vacuum leaves, tree limbs and other debris from campus.
A Cedar Crest College grounds worker uses the Cyclone Rake to vacuum leaves, tree limbs and other debris from campus.