Weathering winter: Preparedness is key

November 20th, 2020 | News and Features

By Thomas Slater
Emergency Preparedness Specialist, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security

Peggy, Quade, Roland and Shirley are among this season’s 26 winter storm names selected by the Weather Channel. There were 24 named storms last season. Winter is on its way, and the Hudson Valley will soon experience the season’s harsh conditions.
Accumulated snow and ice can create treacherous conditions and generate concern for the health and safety of all persons 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 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,” Charlie 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 among  representatives from DPTMS, the Directorate of Public Works, Director of Emergency Services, Public Affairs, West Point Schools, West Point Family Housing, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and from USMA, the Director of Operations (G3).
“Based on the gathered recommendations, we get the garrison commander, Col. Evangeline Rosel, on the conference call and tell her the situation,” Baranyai said. “We give her the weather conditions and overall situation, for example, that the storm is expected to impact the West Point area at 6 a.m. 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, Rosel 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, other than those directed in writing by their supervisor as “weather essential,” should not report until that time.
Employees in weather essential positions are expected to report at their normally scheduled time. So too, those who have approved Tele-work agreements are expected to work. Personnel not identified as weather essential or on approved Tele-work agreements, and those who are not already on leave, will not be charged leave for the Code Red period.
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.

• “WEST POINT IS CODE RED ALL DAY.”  This means that only employees in emergency or weather essential positions should report for work. Employees in non-emergency or non-weather essential positions should not report to work until their next regularly scheduled workday. So too, those who have approved Tele-work agreements are expected to work.
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/personnel under their control.
DA tenant activities adhere to West Point decisions. NAF 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 weather essential or do not have an approved Tele-work Agreement and are on duty at the time of the Code Red, should be excused for the remainder of their workday (placed on administrative leave).
Employees who were on duty, but chose to leave prior to the effective time of the Code  Red, will 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 938-7000 or looking for announcements on the Command Information Channel 8 or 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 impacted by weather.
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.
The following is a listing of radio stations that announce the Code conditions:
•  WRRV  92.7 FM                   •  WGNY  1220 AM
•  WBPM  92.9 FM                   •  WSKO  1260 AM
•  WOLF   94.3 FM                  •  WACK  1420 AM
•  FOX      96.7 FM                  •  WKIP   1450 AM
•  WOLF   97.7 FM
•  WHUD  100.7 FM
•  WPDH  101.5 FM
•  FOX      103.1 FM
•  WSPK   104.7 FM
•  WXPK   107.1 FM
•  WRWD  107.3 FM.