Campus prepares for record-breaking blizzard

Public Safety and Facilities Management have been getting ready to keep the AU community safe during the storm

Campus prepares for record-breaking blizzard

Snow begins falling around AU on Jan. 21, 2015.

A record-breaking blizzard is expected to hit Washington D.C. this afternoon, and will last through Sunday, coating the area with up to two feet of snow.

AU’s snow team has been preparing for winter weather events since the fall, but will have to change some strategies for this extreme event, according to Mark Feist, who runs the team as the Assistant Director of Grounds, Vehicle Maintenance and Support Services.

“As we watch the weather for individual storms we will see the proper amount of resources that we need on campus, so we modify our staffing, which is actually ramping up now to about 50 people, not even mentioning the facility support people,” Feist said.

In addition to assigning staff, the Department of Facilities Management will run six pickup trucks with ploughs, two roadway salt-rigs, eight smaller salt-rigs used to treat the sidewalks and stairs and six Kubota snow brushers - a type of tractor that brushes the snow off the sidewalk and is used as the main workforce for most of the storm, according to Feist.

AU’s Department of Public Safety is also getting ready for the storm, according to Phillip Morse, the Executive Director of University Police and Emergency Management.

“The most difficult thing is making sure that you have adequate resources to respond to emergencies, and that’s why our employees are essential and why we maintain our routine operational levels [in order] to handle any type of emergency that would exist or take place, a snow emergency or otherwise,” Morse said.

However, Public Safety does have contingency plans for this storm in addition to its normal operations, which include locations for staff to eat and get warm and extended shifts to ensure full coverage during the storm.

Feist said that rallying the snow removal teams is actually often one of the easiest tasks as they enjoy being involved with the students’ safety.

“We seem to have good camaraderie during a storm [because] it seems like it brings people together,” Feist said. “That’s something that I’ve noticed over the years.”

Both Public Safety and Facilities Management monitor the weather and give input to the University President’s Office as to whether or not the University should make any closings, but the President’s Office makes the final decision.

AU stated in an alert sent out on Jan. 21 that the University would close at noon today and that throughout the weekend campus dining options would be on a limited schedule.

Despite the difficulties that come in dealing with the weather itself and keeping workers warm and safe, Morse said that getting the public to stay inside is one of the most challenging aspects to keeping them safe, but one of the most important, as the risk for hypothermia and other weather related accidents will be heightened.

“The hardest thing to do really is to get people to stay indoors and not travel either by foot or by vehicle during these events because they’re extremely dangerous,” Morse said. “So we encourage everybody to be prepared in advance and stay inside, stay warm and stay safe.”

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