Winter Weather Threatens Campus Safety

Courtney Garloff, Print Editor

With winter break over and two months of winter remaining, the threat of severe weather is still looming. While many students are concerned with buying books and starting new classes, Campus Safety is preparing for winter storms.

The threat of snow, ice and freezing rain has campus on alert to prepare for winter weather woes and reduce the risk of injury.

“We prepare for the worst,” said Associate Director of Campus Safety Robert Zavada.

Campus Safety works around the clock to monitor the weather and try to combat the threat of severe storms.

“We could certainly have a mild winter. We would be neglectful in our duties if we didn’t prepare for what could be a major snow storm or an ice storm or other conditions involving sleet or even torrential downpours that could result in flooding in areas.”

On duty Campus Safety officers experience and react to the weather conditions outside; they don’t rely on weather reports alone.

“Just because the Weather Channel says that there is going to be an inch of snow, up here on our hill at Misericordia we might get five inches of snow. We have to be the ones who see exactly what it looks like,” said Zavada.

Campus Safety has officers patrolling campus 24 hours a day to get the most accurate idea of what the weather is really like outside.

“Our guys are out there in the middle of the night looking at conditions as they happen and then coordinating with the other departments on campus to help  take care of the hazards,” he said.

Zavada feels that having officers continuously on patrol is a real advantage for the university when combating winter weather.

“Right on scene, that is the biggest advantage of having 24 hour Campus Safety department that can observe these things,” said Zavada. “We work very closely with [the grounds department], but of course we are the ones observing what is happening.”

Despite the university’s cautious approach, sophomore Gildea Hall resident assistant Mike Punuski is often worried that students will take chores such as salting the sidewalks into their own hands.

“I help salt because I’m concerned for other students’ safety while they are going to class.”

Punuski and other resident assistants spread salt to help keep their other students safe and to try to help lighten the grounds crew’s workload in the event of bad weather.

“I feel like I’m helping out around campus,” said Punuski.

Campus Safety said every little bit helps when it comes to winter weather safety.

“We appreciate the help. If you go out and spread some salt, you might have helped prevent your fellow student from slipping and falling,” said Zavada.

After the snow falls, Campus Safety has the job of clearing parking lots for them to be plowed. In the event of significant snowfall, students may be asked to move their cars to different lots.

“One of our obligations is to keep the lots clear, and this means getting a lot of cooperation from students and faculty,” said Zavada.

If needed, students will be notified by an e-MU alert through text or email. Failure to follow instructions will result in a non-appealable $100 fine and the possibility of having a vehicle towed out of the lot.

“We need to keep the lots cleared because they are used by a variety of different people,” said Zavada.

The Science lot and the North Gate lot are more likely to be evacuated due to the high volume of cars parked in those lots.

“We ask people to relocate so that our crews can go through there from the grounds and facilities staff,” said Zavada.

The most common foul weather injury on campus is slipping and falling on ice, Zavada said.

“We are very conscious of that. This is why we ask people to really pay attention to these notices and to cooperate with us so that  we can get the most heavily used areas safe for people walking and driving,” said Zavada.

During the winter season Campus Safety also has to monitor conditions that aren’t normally thought of during the wintertime.

“You might get a bad snowstorm and then it gets warm, and you get a melt and then you end up with not necessarily flooding because we are on a hill, but we can get a lot of accumulation in a lot of different areas, some areas that are not commonly seen by students,” said Zavada.

Snow melt can lead to water seepage into the boiler room and rooms that house the electrical systems, which can lead to mechanical problems.

“Everyone is accustomed to the icy patch in front of their dorm room, but that is not the only danger possible due to weather conditions,” said Zavada.

Cold conditions can also cause winter woes. During the winter break deep freeze, only one pipe froze, he said.

“One leaky pipe could cause flooding that would come from your own water system, just from a tiny cracked pipe,” said Zavada.

Zavada reminds students to dress warmly – don’t forget gloves and hats – and wear the proper footwear during bad weather.

“If you go outside to clean your car off with high heels on, you are going to be at risk of slipping. So if you have to put your combat boots on, that might not look the most fashionable, we want you to do that,” said Zavada

[email protected]