Welcome back to the snow: Winter is here! Stay ready for the unexpected

By Susan Foley DPTMS Emergency Preparedness Specialist

January 11th, 2018 | News, News and Features
 As cadets started trickling back to West Point last week, they were welcomed by the Bomb Cyclone, a powerful nor’easter weather event, that wreaked havoc throughout the Northeastern and Southern United States. It caused travel issues for a good number of cadets trying to get back to the U.S. Military Academy by the weekend from their winter leave location.
The Directorate of Public Works snow removal crews removed the snow and treated the roads and sidewalks to get things back to normal by Monday. See pages 6 and 7 for previously published winter information to be prepared for the next storm that hits West Point and its surrounding areas.
 As the snow continues to pile up throughout the winter season, be sure to understand all the basic alerts at West Point during adverse weather conditions. Keep tabs on the conditions through the 7000 line, Command Channel 23 and several area radio stations and websites for updated information on the ability to come to work. Photo by Kathy Eastwood/PV.

Winter is here and in full force after last week’s Bomb Cyclone, a powerful nor’easter weather event, that wreaked havoc throughout the Northeastern and Southern United States. The Hudson Valley will continue to experience the season’s harsh conditions. Accumulated snow and ice can create treacherous conditions and generate concern for the health and safety of all people on West Point.
So it’s instructive to know how decisions are made that may impact installation operations, what impact these decisions have on the workforce and the West Point community and where to find information on our local road conditions and closures or delays.
The Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security has the responsibility to monitor weather conditions and, with the assistance of other garrison support organizations, provide the garrison commander information and advice to help keep you and the entire West Point community safe.
“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,” Charles Baranyai, DPTMS operations officer, said.
Baranyai also noted that “Our intent is to know what may develop into a potential storm, determine when it will arrive, then provide advanced notice and information to the emergency crews and to the decision-makers. This approach has worked well.”
Generally, the decision-making process begins with a conference call between representatives from DPTMS, the Directorate of Public Works, Director of Emergency Services (DES), Public Affairs, West Point Schools, West Point Family Housing and the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
“Based on the gathered recommendations, we get the Garrison Commander Col. Andrew Hanson on the conference call and tell him the situation,” Baranyai explained. “We give him the weather conditions and overall situation, for example, that the storm is expected to impact the West Point area at six in the morning and, based on that information, we recommend whether to initiate a Code White or Code Red or to have no change to normal operations.”
Based on the facts presented, the garrison commander makes the decision whether or not to implement USMA Policy 40-03, Leave During Adverse Weather.
If possible, the decision to modify the hours of operations will be made before 5 a.m. on the scheduled workday, before most employees depart for West Point. Unless otherwise advised, all employees are to assume they are to report to work as scheduled, even though adverse conditions may exist.
While some winter-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 stay 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 means that the Leave During Adverse Weather policy is in effect until the stated time or all day. Employees, who might be prevented from reporting to work, or who believe that 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 if they prefer. Advance approval of the leave is not necessary.
Specific procedures for requesting leave in these circumstances are at the discretion of each activity director. Employees in weather essential positions are expected to report at their normally scheduled time.
“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. Supervisors will excuse absences without charge to leave for all employees affected whether or not leave was previously approved. Employees who do not report for work by the announced time will be charged leave for the remainder of their absence if it was properly requested and approved.  Employees in weather essential positions are expected to report at their normally scheduled time.
“West Point is Code Red All Day.”—This 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.
When adverse weather conditions develop during duty hours the garrison commander may decide to institute the Leave During Adverse Weather policy for employees who are on duty at the time of the dismissal. Such decisions will be conveyed to major activity directors who are responsible for notifying all activities under their control. Department of Army tenant activities adhere to West Point decisions. Non-appropriated fund employees should consult their supervisors for guidance. The announcements may be made as follows:
“West Point is Code White effective (stated time).”—This means that the Leave During Adverse Weather policy is in effect at the stated time.
“West Point is Code Red effective (stated time).”—This means that the Leave During Adverse Weather policy is in effect at the stated time. All employees who are not essential and are on duty at the time of the Code Red should be excused for the remainder of their workday (placed on administrative leave). This is true even if they were scheduled to take leave later in the day.
Employees who were on duty, but chose to leave prior to the effective time of the Code Red, should be charged leave from the time of their departure through the remainder of their workday. No excused absence is authorized for these employees.
Employees who would normally report for duty after the time of the dismissal should call their supervisors for instruction.
During adverse weather conditions, West Point employees can obtain weather, road conditions, and operations information by calling 845-938-7000 or looking for announcements on the Command Channel 23.
Employees also can go to the internet for weather-related information on the West Point Garrison website and Facebook page, or listen to area radio stations (e.g., WPDH, 101.5 FM) for updated weather notifications. Individual activities (e.g., Band, DCA, DIA, Ski Slope, West Point Club, Thayer Hotel) all have hotline phone numbers 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 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 try to park off the main roads when adverse conditions are approaching.
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 and stay informed.