Departments work together to tackle winter storm challenges

Plows clear snow on Tufts campus during a blizzard on Jan. 27. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

As record amounts of snowfall continue to fall in the Boston area, Tufts’ Facilities Services department and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have been working together to keep the Medford/Somerville campus accessible by preparing for storms and managing snow removal.

According to Geoffrey Bartlett, director of emergency management, the OEM coordinates with other university departments to facilitate storm preparedness and snow removal. Bartlett said that departments at Tufts come together and make decisions about different snow removal choices based on information provided by the OEM.

“We maintain a point of contact with civil authorities, [including] the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service,” he said.

According to Bartlett, these two government agencies provide insight and information on impending storms, which are then shared with the Facilities Services department.

“We make sure that we’re exchanging information with Facilities about the forecast, snowfall and any actions that we’re aware of,” Bartlett said.

The process of canceling school is also a topic that interests many students, and as Tufts saw its fourth snow day on Monday, many students have wondered how the decision to cancel classes is made. According to Bartlett, the university tries to make cancellation decisions the day before a potential snow day, but this is not always possible.

“When a decision gets made, it gets shared with the community,” he said. “If it hasn’t been shared with the community, it’s because we haven’t decided yet.”

According to Bartlett, the National Weather Service tells the OEM its confidence in its weather predictions, which helps Tufts decide whether or not to cancel classes. If the National Weather Service is confident in the prediction, Tufts will cancel the night before. However, if it is not, Tufts will wait to cancel classes.

Kevin Maguire, director of public and environmental safety, emphasized that winter storms impact all facets of campus life. Students, dining services, custodial staff and service crews are all affected by the winter weather, and the OEM shares winter storm information with all of these groups.

“A whole host of preparation, coordination and execution activities fall on our department,” Maguire said.

According to Linda Snyder, vice president of operations, several factors go into organizing snow removal on the different Tufts campuses in Medford/Somerville, Grafton and Boston. Each of these campuses see different snow removal challenges, and on the Medford/Somerville campus, clearing the many parking lots, roadways and walkways can be difficult. Snyder said a large team works to remove snow from the campuses.

“We have different crews that focus on [clearing different parts of the campus], and we have a very close partnership with our custodial partner, DTZ,” she said. “They help supply people to meet our needs for snow emergencies.”

According to Snyder, workers who help to remove snow are provided with cots, blankets, toiletries, meals and a place to stay on campus if they cannot get home due to extensive storm conditions.

Snyder said the main issue that arises after so many storms is where to put the snow. Large snow piles can be dangerous at intersections, she explained, so snow is either hauled off campus or moved to safer on-campus locations.

Large teams work hard to clear the snow, and Snyder expressed her gratitude for the hard working snow removal teams.

“I’m so grateful to the many … men and women who are out in the cold weather driving equipment, shoveling snow,” she said. “There’s a very large workforce who [work] during very difficult conditions to keep the campuses operational.”