UCCS campus closure requires a risk of danger, says Public Safety

29 October 2019

Douglas Androsiglio

[email protected]

The temperature fell from 80 degrees to 19 degrees within 24 hours the day of the first snowfal of the season on Oct. 11. The accumulation was two inches, acording to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Campus remained open during the first snowfall because campus leadership did not believe the conditions presented an unreasonable risk or danger to the community.

The UCCS Police website has a section regarding winter weather that says campus “will remain open unless there is unreasonable risk or danger to a substantial number of students and employees due to unreasonably hazardous driving conditions within a reasonable distance from the campus. While utmost consideration is given to conditions for travel, the campus continues to function during inclement weather.”

“Usually, storm activity that involves 1-4 inches are considered nuance storms and don’t produce a signifi cant threat to the campus,” said program director of emergency management, Scott Smith. “Once you get to 5-8 inches and you get a wind-driven event, then it gets more diffi cult for things to be cleared.”

On the snow day earlier in the month, Smith’s department considered radar information, the storm’s pathway, what the storm was doing and what was predicted in the next four hours.

“When we had the storm event,” Smith said, “we knew there was going to be a window where one snow band pushed through and we had a clearing between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.”

If commuters left before 5 p.m. following a closure announcement, traffi c caused by the estimated 14,000 person campus population have worsened road conditions, according to Smith.

UCCS also utilizes a notifi cation system where students, faculty and staff can sign up for to receive the latest weather closure information. It updates subscribers on road closures and other emergencies. Community members can opt-in to the notifi cations by going to rave.uccs.edu.

“One thing we try to do,” said Smith, “is update all of our campus through the RAVE Alert network. Which is our ability to text [students in the case of severe weather]. We can send to a landline. We can send you an email. We have digital signage on campus. Now we’re looking at ways to get into the classroom to publish information as well.”

During a winter closure, many are still on campus or are in class when it is announced.“When a closure happens,” said Jim Spice, executive director of parking and transportation, “we ask that everyone get out to the bus stops as quickly as possible after the announcement because we try to end shuttle service thirty minutes after an announcement has been made. We don’t want to put drivers into a situation either.”

“If there is a campus delay our goal is to have the buses in service 45-60 minutes before classes open,” said James Rehkopf, transportation fi eld manager. “If campus starts at 10 a.m., we’ll try to have the buses in place by 9-9:15 a.m. to start moving people because teachers have to get classrooms ready, facility services needs to get their people in place.”

Smith has some advice for commuters as well.

“If you’re a commuter and you are in your vehicle, one thing that is important is to have a charged cellphone that you can communicate on. Do you have water in your vehicle? Do you have a fi rst aid kit? Do you have a sleeping bag that will keep you warm when the temperature drops below 20 degrees? Create a survivable environment in your car. Make sure your car is fueled — this is really important. Make sure you are listening to weather reports.”