BOONE, NC – When bad weather is announced, approximately 24,000 students, faculty, and staff at Appalachian State University begin to check their email accounts, refresh the university homepage, and monitor social media. Academic and professional deadlines weigh heavily on their minds. Many also have to balance them with work or schedule changes in the local school system. How will they know what to do? When will they know what to do?
According to Jason Marshburn, director of environmental health, safety and emergency management at App State, this is a complex and highly orchestrated process.
The decision begins within the university’s emergency management system. App State has a large team called the Emergency Management Working Group, led by the Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Emergency Management (EHS & EM). This team is made up of representatives from across the university, including the Chancellor’s Office, Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Facilities Operations, University Communications, Student Affairs, and State Enforcement Police. These people are trained to respond to minor weather events or major university-wide emergencies.
The team represents a larger group of employees and administrators who are responsible for the on-going preparation of incidents – from minor weather issues to catastrophic events – that could impact normal campus operations.
What does it take to make this decision?
- A small team of representatives from Emergency Management, State Enforcement Police, Academic Affairs, Human Resources, Facilities Operations, Student Affairs and University Communications, led by Marshburn, review the forecast weather, road conditions, public transportation schedules and campus operations. This team makes a recommendation on the operational status of the campus to Chancellor Sheri Everts. Marshburn stressed that the safety of the campus community is always the number one concern.
- Once the final decision is made, the campus is notified via email, through posts on the university’s homepage website, and on appstatealert.com, the campus emergency messaging website. university. The university is also recording the decision on its snow line (828-262-SNOW), posting notifications on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and distributing messages to local media. Marshburn said it typically takes around 30 minutes to complete this process.
What decisions are made and what do they mean?
When a weather event prevents the university from functioning regularly, two key decisions must be made and communicated to the campus:
- Whether to cancel in-person class meetings, and if so, for how long.
- Whether to force employees to come to work, and if so, which ones.
The key decision in either case, Marshburn said, is safety – for students and for employees, many of whom are also students.
When classes cannot take place on campus due to inclement weather, faculty are encouraged to adopt online teaching methods. Each App State college or school has a consultant assigned by the university’s Center for Academic Excellence, who helps faculty use technology so that student learning can continue, even though class meetings face-to-face. face to face cannot take place.
Even when weather events prevent classes from meeting on campus, designated key personnel must report to work or remain on duty in order to keep essential operations running smoothly.
Under the Weather and Emergency Campus Closure Policy, a list of operations designated as “Mandatory Operations” must be maintained during adverse weather events. Generally, employees whose work is necessary to maintain these mandatory operations are referred to as “mandatory”.
App State Police, Campus Dining, Telecommunications, Facilities Operations (which is responsible for cleaning up roads, sidewalks, and parking lots), University Housing, and Student Health Service are all among the teams classified as mandatory. Other areas include University Libraries, Student Recreation Center, and Plemmons Student Union.
In special conditions such as inclement weather conditions, compulsory employees mainly focus on performing their essential duties and tasks so that the university can resume normal activities as soon as possible.
Marshburn said that when speaking to people about the process of managing logistics for special operations conditions caused by inclement weather, many are surprised at its complexity. Maybe, counterintuitively, that’s how he likes it. “When people don’t notice it, it means we’re doing our job well,” he said, “and that’s exactly what we want. “
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AppState-ALERT is Appalachian State University’s 24/7 emergency messaging system. Using a combination of text messaging, voicemail, siren warning system, email, and web technologies, AppState-ALERT is designed to provide Appalachian students, faculty and staff with timely information in the event of an emergency. emergency on campus. Cell phones, text messages and voicemail messages will only be sent by the university in the event of an emergency deemed to be an “imminent threat”. An imminent threat is defined as a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the life and safety of the campus community. Learn more at https://emergency.appstate.edu/appstate-alert.
About EHS & EM at Appalachian
The Department of Environmental Health, Safety, and Emergency Management (EHS & EM) at Appalachian State University is working in coordination with other departments on campus to build a safe and prepared campus in support of the engagement of the university to campus security. The main responsibility of the department is environmental health, safety and emergency management functions throughout the campus. Learn more at https://ehsem.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the first public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead meaningful lives as global citizens who understand and are committed to their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system. Appalachian is home to over 20,000 students, has a low student-faculty ratio, and offers over 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.