July 12, 2024

Mike Muckinhaupt: Eye on the Storm

Mike Muckinhaupt has always been fascinated by tornadoes – from childhood games of twirling around on the playground to real-life chases where he’s faced whirling storms and furious funnels of air.

Mike Muckinhaupt

UMW Director of Emergency Management and Safety Mike Muckinhaupt

His interest in severe weather was further piqued when he worked as a radio technician at his local Amateur Radio Emergency Services group in Ohio. Shortly after, he decided to pursue emergency management as a vocation. According to Muckinhaupt, the ability to remain composed and keep others calm in crises can only be learned over time, and through experience.

Muckinhaupt joined UMW two years ago as a fire safety officer. Now UMW’s director of Emergency Management and Safety, he describes his job as “Jack of all trades, master of none.” On any given day, he monitors weather forecasts, looking for issues that may have popped up overnight, and attends safety-related meetings all across campus.

With expertise that runs the gamut, Muckinhaupt is prepared to report in any situation – fire, weather, life safety, you name it. Just don’t mention his fear of heights.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Watching everyone come together during an emergency and working as a team. I have had a lot of proud moments here at UMW watching our team work as one.

Q: The most challenging?
A: Trying to get the word out about our department and the importance of emergency management and safety to all students, staff, faculty and visitors. This is why I urge everyone to visit our website. If you have questions, please ask before an emergency strikes!

Q: What constitutes an emergency?
A: Any situation that requires immediate action to eliminate a risk to life or property.

Q: What should everyone have in their go-to emergency bag?
A: Water, non-perishable food, flashlights, a first aid kit and cash are the five most important items. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s checklist can help assist with preparation for emergencies of any nature.

Q: Anyone who spends much time on campus is familiar with the booming voice that warns them to seek shelter. How does it work?
A: The Area Warning System is sounded for various emergencies. A computer is set up at our Communications Center showing all of the speaker arrays. With two clicks of the mouse, the system is activated and will sound for as long as necessary. If you hear the AWS, take immediate action!

Q: A memorable emergency you’ve had to respond to?
A: In June of 2006, when the area I was supporting received over 6 inches of rain in one hour, alongside a Tornado Warning, high winds and power outages. I was working at the Emergency Operations Center as a scribe and runner to the Law Enforcement desk. Going through training during that emergency was the best on-the-job training that I have received.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: Pay It Forward. This motto was adopted by our family in memory of my mom. Performing a random act of kindness may mean more to someone than you could ever realize.

Sign up to receive emergency alerts at https://www.umw.edu/alerts/.