It’s November and it’s coming! — Winter Awareness

By Christopher Hennen, Ph.D, Emergency Manager, U.S. Army Garrison West Point

November 10th, 2016 | News, News and Features
Winter is on its way and the Hudson Valley will soon experience the season’s harsh conditions. Be prepared and know what you should do as an employee at West Point when the adverse weather makes an impact on daily operations. Courtesy Photo

Winter is on its way and the Hudson Valley will soon experience the season’s harsh conditions. Snow and ice can create treacherous conditions and generate concern for the health and safety of all persons on West Point. Knowing how West Point Emergency Services, U.S. Army Garrison West Point Commander and the Superintendent’s decisions based on weather conditions helps the community understand the impact of those decisions, and it’s important to know where, on our website and social media, to find information on local road conditions and closures or delays.

“We monitor New York Alert, the state’s web-based all-hazards alert and notification system; the National Weather Service’s forecasts and warnings, alerts from the Orange County Emergency Operations Center; and local news outlets,” Susan Foley, coordinator for dissemination of West Point emergency preparedness information, said.

Foley also noted that “our planning has already begun to address potential weather systems that may develop hazardous conditions (ice, freezing rain, snow or sub-zero temperatures).

This planning includes, determining when a storm could potentially affect the region, what scheduled events (e.g., church services, sporting events) may be impacted, and providing advanced notice to emergency personnel, snow removal teams and decision-makers to better prepare for a storm.

“Then, (West Point Emergency Services) provides the community with routine updates on the storm’s track and potential impacts on the Installation, and where to go for additional information. This approach has worked well for us over the many years we’ve prepared for, responded to, and recovered from, winter storms in the Hudson Valley,” Foley added.

Information on being ready for inclement weather can be found at the Ready West Point webpage at http://www.westpoint.army.mil/readywestpoint.html.

Generally, the decision-making process begins up to 72 hours in advance of any developing storm system with potiential to impact the region. The Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security tracks the storm through routine updates and region-wide conferences provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Service.

If a storm is imminent, members of the DPTMS will initiate a conference call among key West Point and Highland Falls officials.

This call is intended to disseminate information about the impending storm, confirm preparedness and to make operational decisions.

Depending upon the forecast and staff recommendations, the Garrison Commander, with advice from the West Point Chief of Staff, decide whether to implement USMA Policy 40-03, Leave During Adverse Weather.

On a scheduled workday, the decision to modify the hours of operations will be made by 5:15 a.m., before most West Point employees depart for work.

Unless otherwise advised, all employees are to assume they are to report to work as scheduled, even though adverse conditions may exist.

While some weather-related conditions may make it more difficult to get to work, they do not necessarily create the need to modify operations at West Point. More severe conditions, however, may constitute a situation that prevents employees in significant numbers from reporting for duty.

For a situation to be considered an emergency in this context, it must be general, rather than personal in scope and impact, and existing and developing conditions must make it unreasonable for employees to safely report to or remain at work. The health and safety of employees are the prime concern when making these decisions.

During adverse weather conditions that start prior to the workday, three basic alerts are used:

“WEST POINT IS CODE WHITE UNTIL (stated time, or, all day).” This announcement means that employees who might be prevented from reporting to work, or who believe they might not be able to return home if they come to work, should be granted annual leave, accrued compensatory time or leave without pay (LWOP) for the day.

Employees need to contact their supervisor for approval, but advance approval is not necessary. Specific procedures for requesting leave in these circumstances are at the discretion of each supervisor.

• “WEST POINT IS CODE RED UNTIL (stated time).” This announcement means that part of the installation is closed until the announced time, and employees should not report until that time. There will be no charge to leave during the time the installation is closed. Employees who do not report for work by the announced time will be charged leave for the remainder of their absence. Those that properly requested, and were approved for leave, will still be charged.

Employees in mission-essential positions are expected to report at their normally scheduled time.

• “WEST POINT IS CODE RED ALL DAY.” This announcement means that only employees in emergency- or mission-essential positions should report for work. Employees in non-emergency or non-mission essential positions should not report to work until their next regularly scheduled workday. There will be no charge to leave for the missed time.

During adverse weather conditions, West Point employees can obtain up to date weather, road conditions and operations information by monitoring the U.S. Army Garrison West Point Facebook or website.

You can also call 845-938-7000 or, if you live on West Point and receive Time Warner Cable, turn your channel to 23 or 8 and look for announcements on the West Point Command Channel. Individual activities (e.g., Band, DCA, DIA, Ski Slope, West Point Club, Thayer Hotel) all have hotlines that patrons can call to determine if an event is cancelled.

When a storm occurs, it’s important that snow removal operations are not impeded. The West Point snow removal plan has five priorities ranging from the main roads and main parking lots to the smallest little nook on post.

Critical to conducting these operations efficiently is the cooperation needed from everyone to park off the main roads when adverse conditions are approaching or when directed by West Point Family Homes or the West Point Military Police.

If someone is going on leave or TDY, don’t leave your vehicle in a parking lot.

For real-time information on road conditions anywhere in New York, you should sign up for 5-1-1 at https://511ny.org/default.aspx or from the app on your mobile device.

For those of us living in the Northeast, winter weather is an unavoidable part of our lives. While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared or do not take the proper precautions.

This winter, be prepared, stay informed, and enjoy the season.

Websites and social media for weather information:

http://www.westpoint.army.mil;

http://www.westpoint.army.mil/readywestpoint.html;

http://www.facebook.com/USAGWestPoint.