Outdoor Services Crew

Friday, April 26, 2013

Snow Removal at CU Boulder

Snow Removal on Campus: How does it work?

Due to the fact that we have an on-campus residential population and ongoing research activities, and because the weather forecast can change very quickly, the campus prepares to clear snow and mitigate ice as soon as a snow storm is forecasted.

The University has a Snow committee made up of representatives from Parking & Transportation Services, Housing & Dining Services, Facilities Operations, city of Boulder, CUPD, Emergency Management, Risk Management and the Office of Disability Services. This group meets monthly year round to coordinate and review the snow removal process and make recommendations for improvements.

The day before snow is predicted to start, the department of Public Safety and Facilities Management begin having conversations and gathering information as to what actions are needed and identify potential issues and decisions that would need to be made if the storm develops as forecasted.  This includes participating in conference calls with the National Weather Service to get the most up to date forecast, and having discussions with senior administrators, that continue throughout the duration of the storm, who have a key role in determining whether the campus needs to be closed or otherwise change its operating status. Campus operations groups with snow removal responsibilities are making sure their ice abatement inventories and snow removal equipment are ready to go for the storm.

Based on the forecasted time of the snow beginning to fall, Facilities Operations, Housing Facilities Services, and Parking Services all determine when they will have crews and/or contractors report to start the snow removal process and ice abatement if necessary. These personnel typically arrive on campus anywhere between 2:00am and 6:00am depending on their role and responsibilities. During this same time frame, key operational personnel are providing information to Campus Administrators, who are responsible for making decisions about the campus operating status. Factors such as the rate of snow fall, accumulation of snow on campus, campus road and sidewalk conditions, the short and long term weather forecast, local and regional road conditions, public transportation operating status, and other safety considerations are used to determine if there will be any change to the campus' operating status. If a decision is made to change campus operating status, University Communications will get that notification publicized through a variety of methods.

For each snow storm the operations groups are able to devote the following resources to snow removal efforts:
Facilities Operations has 16 plows ranging in size from street plows to smaller tractors deployed on streets, sidewalks and loading docks. Our hand removal team consists of 12 employees from Outdoor Services, 10 student employees, up to 45 custodial staff and 12 staff from the trade’s shops helping to clear snow from building entries, stairs, ramps and bus stops. 
Housing Facilities Services has 18 employees working with 6 plows deployed on sidewalks and parking lots, and additional custodial staff working on building entries, stairs and ramps. 
Parking Services utilizes their pre-established snow removal contractor to clear out parking lots, and Parking Services staff attended to areas such as ramps, pay stations, and smaller areas that plows cannot access.

The snow removal crews and/or contractors work to clear snow and ice to ensure that our affiliates and guests are able to safely move around campus to the greatest extent possible, and to make sure our essential services (dining halls, emergency services, etc.) for our on-campus residential population and research projects can continue.

Another partner I need to mention is the city of Boulder who is responsible for clearing some of the streets on campus, such as Regent Drive. Our campus Snow Marshall stays in close contact with the City to make sure we are coordinating our efforts.

As the snow fall winds down, the operations groups are planning for post storm activities such as pile removal, plowing out sidewalks to their full width, opening all building entries to their full width, and continuing ice mitigation efforts. How long these activities continue is dependent on the amount of snow received and the temperatures that follow the storm.

As you can see, it is a well thought out and multi-faceted operation to clear snow on campus.

Don Inglis