Winter has arrived at the University of Connecticut, plunging the campus into sub-zero temperatures earlier this week, and with that comes the complications of cold weather.
Pamela Schipani, the Executive Director of Residential Life, said a pipe burst in Buckley on Tuesday. The individuals who arrived to get the heating system back on estimated that repairs would take a few hours, she said, but because the thick concrete walls retain temperature well, this was not a major issue.
“We don’t really talk about displacing students until we get to eight hour threshold,” Schipani said, regarding the protocols that emergency management staff follows. “If the windows were blown out – something severe – we would activate the move earlier.”
Dr. Schipani is a member of the University’s emergency response personnel, who typically meet at the police station. She said that the group brings in different staff depending on the severity of the emergency and the locations involved.
“We have a very detailed response to whatever emergency occurs on campus, whether (that is) weather, or any other kind of emergency… like the Ebola scare a few years ago,” she said.
The response, however, is unique to each situation, Schipani said.
“It depends on the details, (which is) why we bring all these people together to talk about what we would do,” Schipani said of the emergency response personnel.
According to William Shea, the Director of the Office of Emergency Management, UConn utilizes a “Weather Group Protocol” in severe weather situations to decide to delay campus openings, cancel classes, release employees early or close campuses entirely.
“As with all emergency management functions, primary considerations (of the Weather Group) are: life safety of the students, faculty, staff and visitors; conserve, secure and protect UConn property and the environment; and business continuity,” Shea said.
The Weather Group makes recommendations for residence halls at the Storrs and Stamford campuses after reviewing the relevant information, Shea said.
There are plans in place for immediate action, however, including roughly 3,000 flashlights stored in Reslife’s central office, ready to be distributed by on-duty staff in the event of a longer power outage, Schipani said.
“Most times, in recent years, we haven’t had power outages that last more than a couple hours,” she said.
In the case of a long-term emergency, Schipani said there are kits with soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other essentials stored in a warehouse on depot campus.
The Dean of Students’ office shared some helpful tips for students to be prepared for incoming winter weather.
“Make sure your cold weather attire includes lined coats, mittens, hats, extra blankets and waterproof boots,” Eleanor J.B. Daugherty, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said in an email. “Water and non-perishable food will also be important to keep available for when you cannot easily leave your residence.”
Campus resources are prioritized during severe weather conditions, Daugherty said. The University’s first response is to clear the snow, enabling access for emergency vehicles as well as access to Student Health Services and dining halls.
“For those of you with cars, emergency supplies such as a flashlight, batteries, ice scraper and traction sand are important,” Daugherty said.
Schipani said the university staff is concerned with students living on and off campus, and that their protocols take all students into account.
“We make decisions based on what’s the best thing for our population,” Schipani said. “We’re very careful in what we’re doing, or we try to be as careful as we can in our situation.”
Natalie Baliker is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Natalie.Baliker@uconn.edu.