I read with interest the recent editorial regarding icy conditions on campus. Snow and ice removal are the responsibility of Facilities Management across most of the three campuses. While the op-ed noted “Facilities Management worked around the clock to keep the campus clear of snow and ice,” the overall article indicated that the university had not applied sufficient resources to snow and ice removal and the safety and health of students were not among the university’s top priorities. This is simply an untrue statement which needs to be addressed.
The university maintains a robust system for dealing with snow and ice emergencies that begins before winter arrives. Equipment is serviced; salt, sand, calcium chloride and other consumables are preordered; contracts for additional help are put in place and refresher training for plow operators is conducted.
In the week prior to an event, the weather is continually monitored, as conditions are subject to change. For instance, the recent storm that dropped almost eight inches of snow started with a prediction of four inches or less.
As the storm approaches, FM “pretreats” roads and walkways with a brine solution that soaks in and helps prevent an ice layer from freezing rain prior to actual snowfall. Then, as snow actually starts to accumulate, the FM Grounds Department, with help from other FM departments and contractors, does indeed begin “round the clock” operations to clean and maintain the roadway and path system. The grounds crew works a 16-hour shift, and with minimal time off, do it again. Campus police provide both early warnings of potentially hazardous conditions and continuously respond to weather-related incidents, which more often than not is providing mutual aid to accidents that happen off campus. Enough positive things cannot be said about the hard work and job done by both grounds and the police.
This effort continues through the snow event, primarily focusing on the published snow emergency routes until after the event ends. FM continues to clean up snow and ice for multiple days afterward.
The care SIUE puts into its snow and ice removal is clearly and readily obvious when comparing our efforts to the region at large. Our roads and sidewalks remained quite passable and the clearance levels exceeded that of IDOT, MoDOT or any of the adjacent governmental units, clearly evident as you crossed onto the campus.
No agency can provide instant, 100 percent cleared roadways or sidewalks during an event for even two or four inches, let alone eight. Additionally, saturated groundwater will bubble up and freeze, and snow will melt and refreeze, especially with dropping temperatures that often follow storm fronts. Our notice to students, faculty and staff is not only to remind everyone to be careful during inclement weather, but to feel free to notify us of any spots they notice. FM considers additional eyes as always helpful.
As a final note, eight inches of snow creates a huge volume that is not practical to remove completely from parking lots, though we do remove some at key locations. We can and will evaluate plow patterns and snow storage locations for future events and as we are continuously striving to have the best winter operations program in the Metropolitan Area.