When the snow comes down, be sure to know what to do

For students at Washington State University Vancouver, inclement weather is something that is often not of great concern. Winters in southwest Washington generally tend to be milder than in other parts of the country, with high amounts of rainfall taking the place of high amounts of snow. Students in Southwest Washington often find inclement winter weather a frustrating circumstance. Usually, there are questions of how severe winter weather will affect class schedules, and how students can learn of class cancelations or school closures.

Winter weather is generally unpredictable, and the sudden appearance of icy roads or snowy conditions leave students questioning how their school day will be impacted. WSU Vancouver has a specific system for determining the severity of an emergency and its appropriate response. This emergency assessment system is applicable to a wide range of potential threats to campus safety, including the dangers posed by severe winter weather.

According to the Department of Public Safety’s webpage, full campus closures are rare and the ultimate determination for what measures will be taken in the event of severe weather is left to the Chancellor. Four options are available, each varying in degree according to the severity of the event. First, classes can proceed as normal. Next, the campus could open one or several hours late. If the weather conditions are more severe, classes may be canceled, but university staff and employees must come to work if they are able. Finally for the most extreme of weather situations, the campus, including all classes and other services, can be closed with only essential staff and employees coming to work if necessary.

As a commuter campus, WSU Vancouver poses unique difficulties for students dealing with inclement weather. Since all students and staff live off of campus, each individual may have winter conditions of varying severity depending on his or her unique location. Individual class instructors may cancel classes at their own discretion, and notify students through class email. Additionally, while the campus itself rarely closes due to winter weather conditions, individual students are encouraged to judge for themselves whether or not it is safe enough to attend classes.

When severe weather does strike, WSU Vancouver has several ways of notifying staff and students about possible closures. WSU Vancouver has adopted a campus wide emergency notification system, which is a free service that connects directly to students and staff through text messages, voice messages and emails. According to the WSU Vancouver website, these messages will contain information detailing the nature of the emergency or safety hazard, as well as instructions for student and staff responses to the emergency. Students and staff can register to have informational warnings sent to their mobile devices and email accounts through zzusis.

Many local schools and community organizations connect with local television and radio broadcasting stations to announce delays and closures. In the event of a campus wide delay or closure at WSU Vancouver, these local broadcasting networks will be notified and display the required information. Should the instance of inclement winter weather occur during the night before classes, the decision to close campus or delay campus opening must be made by school officials prior to 6:00 a.m.

Severe winter weather is an uncommon experience in the Vancouver area, but it is not unknown. Most recently, the campus was affected by the threat of snow and ice in the fall 2014 semester. While the campus did not close, individual teachers canceled classes and those classes that were held had reduced attendance rates. Therefore, it is important to recognize how the WSU Vancouver campus lets students know about closures and delays, and how students can respond. Further details about the campus closure policy can be found at the Office of Public Safety’s webpage at admin.vancouver.wsu.edu/public-safety/emergency-closure-suspended-operations-procedure. Information regarding the school’s emergency notification system as well as a link to sign up for the service is available at www.vancouver.wsu.edu/safety-plan/emergency-communications-vancouver-campus-and-public. Finally, other questions and specific inquiries can be addressed to the WSU Vancouver Department of Public Safety Services at wsuvcops@vancouver.wsu.edu.


The Great Vancouver Snowstorm by Gregory Walker

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