Though the game didn’t end in Michigan’s favor this Saturday, the evacuation to clear all 103,890 fans from the Big House due to a weather emergency went exactly as planned.

After lightning struck near the stadium, the University’s Division of Public Safety and Security and game officials postponed the game and proceeded to evacuate fans from the stadium.

According to NCAA regulations, if there is lightning detected within eight miles of a collegiate stadium, the game must be paused. It can only be resumed 30 minutes after the most recent lightning strike within six miles.

Athletic directors for both teams must decide whether the game will be postponed, resumed the same day or called a no contest. Saturday, play was stopped at 6:35 p.m. and resumed at 8:30 p.m. Players were also allowed 15 minutes to warm up before play recommenced.

Joe Piersante, chief operations officer for DPSS and detail commander during football Saturdays, is in charge of the many public safety agencies tasked with keeping the Big House safe: Huron Valley Ambulance, emergency medicine, the county chapter of the American Red Cross, the Ann Arbor Fire Department, Hazardous Materials and federal agencies who partner with University Police.

“We preplanned for such events,” Piersante said of Saturday’s weather evacuation. “And we have that in our game day operation plan and emergency management plan because we worked closely with athletics and knew there was a possibility for hazardous weather.”

DPSS and other agencies plan for all kinds of evacuation scenarios, he said, including those caused by fire, the presence of hazardous materials, explosions, active shooters and dangerous weather.

There are three weather-mapping systems that track dangerous weather systems, Piersante said. One is in the emergency operations center on game day, another is located in the separate DPSS operations center and the last is monitored by the athletic department.

Piersante said he knew there would be a high chance of bad weather during the game and noted that information was communicated to fans in advance of the storm on the scoreboard.

Once a lightning strike was detected, fans were asked to evacuate. Piersante said he thought the process went smoothly and that it was not chaotic.

“There was no panic at all that I observed,” he said. “Perhaps because we did put the warning out, I think a lot of people were prepared.”

Kinesiology sophomore Casey Aman said that people were more frantic than usual because it was raining heavily and there was lightning, but that most people had left by the time the storm began because the team was losing badly.

LSA sophomore Joe Shea said he observed some disturbances in the crowd, including some students who were worried about lightning striking the metal seating.

“I think it was a little chaotic just because if you look at how the Big House is set up, there really is only that one entrance,” he said. “You enter the stadium, and you go to your seats — you start at row 70 and you walk all the way down. It doesn’t feel extremely conducive for evacuations.”

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