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FAQs for Severe Weather Delays and Closings

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Monitoring Conditions
Decision-Making Process
Communications
Essential vs Non-Essential Personnel Designation
When Campus is Closed
When Campus is Open During or After a Severe Weather Event

Monitoring Conditions

Q1. How does the University monitor weather conditions?

The University contracts with DTN WeatherSentry for weather forecasting specific to the Princeton University campus. The University makes decisions based on the best available information.

Q2. How does the University monitor road conditions?

Princeton University Public Safety views traffic cameras and confers with police and emergency planners in local and regional municipalities.

Facilities and Public Safety staff provide updates on current conditions on campus.

Decision-Making Process

Q3. Who makes decisions about whether the campus is closed for non-essential personnel, classes are cancelled, etc.?

The Emergency Management Group’s weather emergency team discusses road and campus conditions and anticipated weather and makes a recommendation to the Executive Vice President. Based on this recommendation, the Executive Vice President makes the decision about the status of the University.

Q4. What criteria are used to make recommendations for campus delay or closing?

The primary considerations are:

  • Road conditions in and around Princeton.
  • State or local travel bans.
  • Weather forecast for the Princeton area.
  • Condition of campus walkways and parking lots.
  • Wind or other conditions that may make walking on campus hazardous.
  • Timing of the storm and the capacity of University crews to safely respond to the weather conditions.

Q5. What criteria are used to make recommendations for cancelling classes?

Besides the criteria listed above in Question 4, a primary consideration for whether or not to hold classes is the safety of walking around campus – condition of walkways, high winds or heavy snow that could cause branches or trees to fall, etc. 

If classes continue as scheduled, individual faculty may decide to cancel classes. See Question 9 for more information.

Q6. When does the Weather Emergency Team make the recommendation?

The Weather Emergency Team usually confers the night before an anticipated storm and again early in the morning of the storm (around 4:30 am). Decisions are made by 5:30 am to be able to prepare and send communications by 6:00 am. See Communications for information on how closures are communicated.

Depending on the timing of the storm, the team may recommend delayed opening and reassess conditions later in the morning. The team may recommend closing for the day or reopening at the stated time. 

Q7. Why doesn’t the Weather Emergency Team make recommendations the night before the storm?

Weather forecasts can change overnight. It is very rare for the team to make a recommendation until morning.

Q8. What are the different possibilities for weather closings and delays?

The University has issued the following types of closures:

  • Delayed Opening for non-essential staff with classes delayed.
  • Delayed Opening for non-essential staff with classes held as scheduled.* 
  • Closed to non-essential staff with classes cancelled.
  • Closed to non-essential staff with classes held as scheduled.*
  • Early Dismissal (classes may continue or be cancelled).

*Please see Question 9, the Essential Personnel Designation section, and the Deans’ statement regarding faculty decisions for holding classes during inclement weather. 

Q9. If classes continue, can faculty cancel classes on their own?

Yes. Individual faculty are expected to make their own decision as to whether they can safely travel to campus to hold classes. They may cancel classes and notify their students using the Blackboard system. Faculty should be aware that staff who support their classes are not considered “essential personnel” and are not expected to come in when the University is closed to non-essential personnel.

Q10. What departments are represented on the Weather Emergency Team, which makes recommendations for campus status?

The group is facilitated by the Executive Director of Public Safety or Director of Environmental Health and Safety and includes representatives from:

  • Public Safety
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Facilities
  • University Services (Housing, Campus Dining, Conference and Events Services, Parking, etc.)
  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students
  • Dean of the College
  • Dean of the Graduate School
  • Athletics
  • Library
  • Art Museum
  • Community and Regional Affairs
  • Princeton Plasma Physics Lab

Communications

Q11. How does the University provide information about campus closings, delays, and early dismissals?

The Weather Team communicates decisions in several ways – note that communications about morning decisions are posted or sent by 6:00 am:

  • Princeton University Website – The campus status will be at the top of the page (www.princeton.edu). 
  • TigerAlert (formerly PTENS) – All faculty, staff, and students receive an e-mail and text message. Individuals may choose to receive a phone call by setting their preferences in TigerAlert via the portal. See http://emergency.princeton.edu/PTENS-User-Portal for instructions. 
  • SNOW line – Call 609-258-SNOW (609-258-7669) for a recorded message.
  • TigerSafe app – Receive push messages on your mobile device. Download the TigerSafe app (choose the Princeton University version) from the iOS or Android app store or go to http://emergency.princeton.edu/stay-connected/tigersafe for information. Anyone, including those without a campus NetID or affiliation, can download the app and receive messages.

Essential vs Non Essential Personnel Designation

Q12. Who are essential personnel? Who is expected to come to campus when it is closed to non-essential personnel?

According to University Policy, Essential services employees perform jobs that are necessary and required to maintain basic University operations during scheduled closures or unscheduled suspension of normal operations due to emergencies, events, or other situations. Essential services employees may be asked and/or required to perform jobs or duties that fall outside of their normal job classification during an emergency event.

Whether or not someone is considered essential personnel during severe weather depends on their job responsibilities and their home department or office’s continuity of operations plan. Supervisors should discuss expectations with their staff. 

Q13. I am a staff member who supports faculty. If classes are in session but the University is closed to non-essential staff, am I now considered essential? Do I need to come in?

No. Each year, the Dean of the Faculty and the Dean of the College remind faculty that if they decide to hold classes when the University is closed to non-essential personnel, they should be aware that support staff are not considered “essential personnel” and are not required to come to campus.

Q14. I am not designated as essential personnel, but I want to come to work. Is that okay?

When the campus is closed to non-essential personnel, non-essential personnel are discouraged from coming to campus. Parking lots must remain accessible to snow-clearing machines, walkways may not be clear, and walking conditions on campus may be hazardous. In the event of an emergency, emergency responders may presume that your building is unoccupied.

Q15. I am designated as essential personnel, but I am not sure if I am expected to come to work during severe weather.

Clarify expectations with your supervisor. If you remain unsure, contact Human Resources at 609-258-3300 or hr@princeton.edu

Q16. What if I am designated as essential personnel, but I am unable to report to work or am not be able to arrive on time. What should I do?

Notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Per Human Resources policy, “Employees designated as performing essential services that do not report to and/or remain at work when required to do so by management may be subject to disciplinary procedures. Each situation will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by a representative from the Office of Human Resources, the supervisor and the employee to determine appropriate action.”

When Campus is Closed

Q17. What services and/or buildings remain open when the campus is closed to non-essential personnel?

The University will do its best to keep residential dining halls and Frist Campus Center open when campus is closed to non-essential personnel. If classes are in session, the University will do its best to keep the Library, Art Museum, and Athletic facilities open, as possible. The communications on the homepage and in the e-mails and other messages will specify what remains open.

Q18. Do campus TigerTransit buses continue to run when the campus is closed to non-essential personnel?

If classes continue, the University will do its best to keep at least some TigerTransit buses running. The communications on the homepage and in the e-mails and other messages will specify whether TigerTransit is expected to be in service. Check the TigerTransit website for up-to-date status at https://transportation.princeton.edu/options/tigertransit .

Note: Non-essential staff are not expected to report to work when campus is closed, even if classes continue. 

Q19. I am running an event on campus and I would like it to continue despite the campus closure. What should I do?

When the campus is closed due to severe weather, campus events are cancelled. It is your responsibility to communicate this to your expected participants and attendees.

When Campus is Open During or After a Severe Weather Event

Q20. What will the conditions be like on campus if it is open during or just after severe weather? What should I do to be prepared and to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls?

Facilities personnel will do their best to keep main pathways as clear as possible. Secondary pathways may not be as clear. Even main pathways may have some snow or ice. Follow these guidelines to prevent slips, trips, and falls:

  • Select appropriate footwear.
  • Think about the best route to your destination and plan on a little extra time to get there.
  • If you have no choice but to walk on a slippery surface, bend slightly forward and shorten your stride or shuffle your feet for better stability.
  • Be particularly careful stepping out of your vehicle - hold on to the vehicle for support.
  • Observe caution when walking or driving around snow removal equipment
  • Take advantage of floor mats to remove moisture from the soles of your shoes.
  • Report slippery conditions and fall hazards to Facilities Customer Service at 609-258-8000.

On the EHS website, more information is available on avoiding winter slips and falls.

Q21. Campus is open, but I am unable to come to campus because of neighborhood road conditions, childcare issues, or other reasons. What should I do?

Notify your supervisor as soon as possible. 

Q22. I am a supervisor and some of my staff are unable to report to work because of neighborhood road conditions, childcare issues, or other compelling reasons. What should I know?

As much as possible, supervisors should be flexible with staff unable to report to work during severe weather for compelling reasons. If the job responsibilities permit, consider allowing staff to work from home or allow them to charge the time to personal time or vacation time. Supervisors should have notification procedures in place for employees during an emergency.

Q23. My work schedule is something other than the University’s regular schedule between 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. How do I determine when or if to report to work?

The communications on the homepage and in e-mails, etc., will specify when the University is expected to reopen. If after reading the posting you are still not clear whether or when to report to work, check with your supervisor. Supervisors should have notification procedures in place for employees during an emergency.

Have a question? Call Environmental Health and Safety at 609-258-5294 or e-mail at ehs@princeton.edu

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