IU Public Safety plans ahead for 2024 solar eclipse; what can you do to prepare?
Jan 31, 2024
Whether it’s football and basketball games, international conferences or visits from famous guests, Indiana University Public Safety has kept our campuses secure through many events that draw large crowds. For the past three years, IU Public Safety has been preparing for its most astronomical event yet.
On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse is expected to bring thousands of people to areas in the path of totality, which includes the IU Bloomington, IUPUI, IU East, IU Kokomo and IUPUC campuses.
Large crowds can create challenges for safety officials. In particular, IU Public Safety anticipates issues with gridlocked traffic and communication, especially if cellular networks are stressed due to increased usage.
Amanda Roach. Photo by Alex Kumar, Indiana University
“We really want everyone to enjoy this once-in-lifetime eclipse safely and have a fun experience,” said Amanda Roach, university director for Emergency Management and Continuity. “Knowing what to expect and anticipating those challenges has been key to planning for a safe eclipse.”
To prepare for the stellar event that hasn’t occurred in this area for over 150 years, members of IU Public Safety met with safety officials from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, which was in the path of totality for the August 2017 solar eclipse. Their experience has helped IU Public Safety develop estimates for population increases and plan for the challenges ahead.
IU Public Safety has also connected with partners across the state, including the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Natural Resources, Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation, as well city and county officials where IU campuses in the path of totality are located.
Communities in the path of totality can expect a noticeable increase in the number of visitors starting the Saturday and Sunday before the eclipse. The influx of people will keep first responders busy with traffic congestion, potential accidents, and other health and safety risks.
“We fully expect traffic in every community in the path of totality to be backed up significantly,” Roach said.
Depending on events on or near IU campuses, each one in the path of totality will have different challenges. For example, eclipse activities like the Lunacy festival at White River State Park near IUPUI and Eclipsing the Renaissance close to IUPUC may increase the number of people parking their vehicles in campus lots.
Expect heavy traffic before and after the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, when thousands of visitors are expected to travel to IU campuses that are in the path of totality. Photo by Chris Meyer, Indiana University
The Hoosier Cosmic Celebration at IU Bloomington on April 8 will bring thousands to Memorial Stadium. Like other big events, traffic coming to and leaving that event will be heavy.
In response, IU Public Safety plans to divide the IU Bloomington campus’s geography to assign emergency and first-aid services within those smaller zones. IU police officers will use bicycles, motorcycles and golf carts to maneuver around crowds and traffic to respond more quickly to emergencies. Additional contingency plans are also in place for other challenges that safety officials may face.
Other plans include creating a dedicated pedestrian boulevard through campus to encourage people to walk safely to events at Dunn Meadow, the Arboretum and Memorial Stadium. Portable bathrooms will also be available.
The planning and coordination among safety officials will continue, but the public has a role to play as well.
“When the anticipated crowds arrive at our IU campuses, everyone can do their part to increase safety,” Roach said. “One of the most important things our campus community and guests can do is remember to be patient and flexible. You may find that your ‘Plan A’ for the day may not be doable, but we’re still going to see an amazing eclipse in our community and have memories to take with us for a lifetime.”