Weekly Features


Winter weather preparedness: IU Bloomington edition

Jan. 11, 2017

As we enter into what are typically the snowiest months for Indiana, we dust off our snow boots and prepare for possible icy commutes and frigid temperatures. But what does uncooperative winter weather mean for IU employees?

Snow plow

Maintenance crews work to keep campus pathways clear after the first snow of 2017. | PHOTO BY ERIC RUDD, IU COMMUNICATIONS

According to the university’s adverse weather policy, all staff and temporary employees are expected to report to work unless otherwise notified. However, if the weather creates hazardous conditions for your commute to or from work, you are encouraged to use your best judgment and should not endanger yourself or ignore local travel advisories.

If adverse weather conditions cause extreme travel hazards to or from work:

  • Employees should make every effort to notify his or her supervisor;
  • Advance notice requirements for use of time off is waived;
  • Support, service, PAO, PAS and PAU staff may use accrued time off or, with approval, may make up the work time during the same week
  • PAE staff absent for a full work day may use accrued PTO
  • Staff employees may either charge an absence against time-off accruals or, at their option, be absent without pay but with benefit time accrual

In the event that the university is closed due to adverse weather, it will be announced on local radio stations as well as on the Protect IU website. Employees can also sign up to receive alerts via IU-Notify.

Staff who would normally be at work during the hours that the campus is closed and who were not already scheduled off are eligible for regular pay for the absence. However, there are some essential jobs which must be performed during such circumstances. (Your supervisor will tell you if your job falls into this category.)

Essential support and service staff and temporary employees required to work on campus during a closure will receive additional compensation. Essential professional staff receive their regular pay but do not receive any additional compensation. Non-emergency staff who report to work when the campus is closed will be compensated at their regular rate of pay. In addition, a campus closure might not necessarily apply to employees working at locations outside the immediate campus area. This includes employees who work from home or from other off-campus locations.

So how does IU make the decision to close campus, issue a delay or keep operations running as usual? Designated senior management, including representatives from the IU Emergency Management and Continuity, Facility Operations, Landscape Services, IU Police Department, and Residential Programs and Services, convene to consider details such as the status of the grounds, buildings, walkways and bus system, as well as weather forecasts and travel advisories. Then campus executives make the final decision. 

However, a campus closing is unlikely. On a normal snowy morning, employees with IU Bloomington’s Landscape Services division are up as early as 4 a.m., or as needed, to prepare campus. The division, part of Facility Operations, is responsible for maintaining campus grounds, among other tasks, and works with the Building Services and other Facility Operations divisions to clear campus.

Here’s a look at a typical snowy day on the IU Bloomington campus:

People: Eighty full-time, part-time and hourly employees are responsible for snow removal. Not all are typically called in at once, unless a major snow or other weather event is predicted. Another 250 people work with Building Services.

The job: Landscape Services clears 23 miles of streets, 52 miles of sidewalks and 150 acres of parking lots on the Bloomington campus, as well as various bridges, steps and other walkways. Building Services clears steps, landings, ramps and sidewalks from the building to the curb for about 150 campus structures.

Equipment: Landscape Services workers use 40 pieces of equipment to clear campus, including backhoes to push or stack snow and four lawnmowers outfitted with brooms to push snow from the brick sidewalks. At any one time throughout a shift, 20 employees are shoveling some areas by hand. Building Services employees use shovels and snowblowers for the areas they clear.

Treatment: Roads are salted, while bagged ice melt is used on sidewalks. In recent years, Landscape Services switched to using brine, a mixture of water and road salt that can be used to pre-treat roads to help prevent ice from forming. That's reduced the use of salt by 25 percent.

On the clock: It typically takes about 12 hours after it snows for workers to "touch" every part of campus. Then they start all over again. A typical 4-inch snow requires about four days of steady work to get the campus back to "normal." 

Priorities: In general, emergency areas and facilities that operate 24/7 are cleared first, including IUPD; areas around residence halls; loading docks where RPS can receive food deliveries; and routes for emergency vehicles to access campus if needed. Division administrators stay in touch with others on campus about specific needs for the day, such as a basketball game at Assembly Hall or a performance at the MAC.

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