By Charles G. Baranyai, USAG West Point, DPTMSNovember 3, 2015
WEST POINT, N.Y. (November 3, 2015) - Winter is on its way and the Hudson Valley will soon experience the season's harsh conditions. Accumulated snow and ice can create treacherous conditions and generate concern for the health and safety of all persons on U.S. Army Garrison West Point.
It's important to know how decisions are made that may impact installation operations, what impact these decisions have on the workforce and the West Point community and where to find information on our local road conditions and closures or delays.
The USAG West Point, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security has the responsibility to monitor weather conditions that may affect West Point and with the assistance of other garrison support organizations, provide the garrison commander information and advice to help keep you and the West Point community safe.
"We monitor 'New York Alert,' the state's web-based all-hazards alert and notification system; the National Weather Service's forecasts and warnings, alerts from the Orange County Emergency Operations Center; and local news outlets," said Susan Foley, coordinator for dissemination of West Point emergency preparedness information.
Foley also stated, "Our planning has already begun to address expected weather systems that may develop into a hazardous storm (ice, freezing rain, snow or sub-zero temperatures). This planning includes, determining when a storm could potentially affect our region, what scheduled events (example: church services, sporting events) may be impacted by the storm, and provide advanced notice to the emergency personnel, snow removing teams and decision-makers to prepare for the storm," Foley said.
"Then, we provide the community with routine updates on the storm track and potential impact on the installation, and where to go for additional information. This approach has worked well for us over the many years we've prepared for, responded to, and recovered from, winter storms in the Hudson Valley" Foley said.
Generally, the decision-making process begins more than 48 to 72 hours in advance of any developing storm system that may impact our region. DPTMS and the Emergency Operations Center continuously track the storm through routine updates and region-wide conferences provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If an imminent storm is expected to impact our region, members of the EOC will initiate a conference with representatives from DPTMS, West Point G3, Directorate of Public Works, Director of Emergency Services, Public Affairs, West Point Schools, Balfour Beatty, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation and a representative for the Highland Falls Schools.
This West Point conference call is intended to disseminate information about the impending storm, but more importantly, it is intended to determine how prepared we are to handle the impact of the storm. Based on the gathered recommendations from the conference attendees, the Garrison Commander, Col. Landy Dunham, enters the call so he can be informed of the situation. Col. Dunham is provided the most current and accurate weather forecast and conditions for example; that a storm is expected to impact the West Point area at a specific time and that DPW is ready to clear the installation roads while Balfour Beatty is prepared to manage snow clearing activities in all of the housing areas.
In addition, we may recommend whether to initiate a change in the hours of work or operations for all of West Point. After a brief consultation with the West Point Chief of Staff, the garrison commander makes the decision whether or not to implement U.S. Military Academy Policy 40-03, Leave during Adverse weather.
On a scheduled workday, the decision to modify the hours of operations will be made by 5:30 a.m., before most West Point employees depart for work. Unless otherwise advised, all employees are to assume they are to report to work as scheduled, even though adverse conditions may exist. While some winter-related conditions may make it more difficult to get to work, they do not necessarily create the need to modify operations at West Point.
More-severe conditions however, may constitute a situation that prevents employees in significant numbers from reporting for duty. For a situation to be considered an emergency in this context, it must be general, rather than personal in scope and impact, and existing and developing conditions must make it unreasonable for employees to safely report to--or stay at--work. The health and safety of employees are the prime concern when making these decisions.
During adverse weather conditions that start prior to the workday, three alerts are used:
1) "West Point is code WHITE until (stated time, or, all day)." This announcement means that employees, who might be prevented from reporting to work, should be granted annual leave, accrued compensatory time or LWOP if they prefer. Employees still need to contact their supervisor for approval. Specific procedures for requesting leave in these circumstances are at the discretion of each activity.
2) "West Point is code RED until (stated time)." This announcement means that part of the installation is closed until the announced time, and employees should not report until that time. Supervisors will excuse absences without charge to leave for all employees affected whether or not leave was previously approved. Employees who do not report for work by the announced time will be charged leave for the remainder of their absence if it was properly requested and approved. Employees in weather essential positions are expected to report at their normally scheduled time.
3) "West Point is code RED all day." This means that only employees in emergency or mission essential positions should report for work. Employees in non-emergency or non-mission essential positions should not report to work until their next regularly scheduled workday.
When adverse weather conditions develop during duty hours, the garrison commander may decide to institute the Leave During Adverse Weather Policy for employees who are on duty at the time of the dismissal. Such decisions will be conveyed to the major activity directors who are responsible for notifying all activities under their control. Department of the Army tenant activities adhere to West Point decisions. Contractors must adhere to their contractual agreements or statement of work. Non Appropriated Funds employees should consult their supervisors for guidance. The announcements will be made as follows:
1) "West Point is code WHITE effective (stated time)." This means that the Leave During Adverse Weather policy is in effect at the stated time.
2) "West Point is code RED effective (stated time)." This means that the Leave During Adverse Weather policy is in effect at the stated time. All employees who are not essential and are on duty at the time of the code RED should be excused for the remainder of their workday (placed on administrative leave). This is true if they were scheduled to take leave later in the day. Employees who were on duty, but chose to leave prior to the effective time of the code RED, should be charged leave from the time of their departure through the remainder of their workday. No excused absence is authorized for these employees. Employees who would normally report for duty after the time of the dismissal should call their supervisors for instruction.
During adverse weather conditions, West Point employees can obtain weather, road conditions, and operations information by calling 845-938-7000 (the 7000 line), viewing the Command Channel or on Social Media, our social media links are provided in the Related Links box on the right of this page.
The 7000 line is an automated telephone answering system that will give the most current information on weather and road conditions on West Point.
The Command Channel is provided for personnel who live and work on West Point and subscribe to Time Warner Cable. It is also available to the academic departments of the U.S. Military Academy. The Command Channel can be found on 20-8 for personnel living on West Point, and Channels 23 and 8 for academia.
Our Social Media is the quickest and easiest way to receive information on what is going on at West Point. Subscribe to our Twitter account at @USAGWestPoint, and follow our hashtags #WPWXAlert and #WPAlert to stay up to date on inclement weather, road conditions and important information in and around West Point.
Become our friend on our Facebook page at West Point Garrison and Community, and stay up to date on all events that are happening in and around West Point. Our Twitter feed also posts on Facebook to ensure our community stays informed on weather and road conditions.
There are also local area radio stations for updated weather notifications. Individual activities such as the USMA Band, DCA, DIA, Ski Slope, West Point Club and Thayer Hotel all have hotline phone numbers that patrons can call to determine if an event is cancelled.
When a storm occurs, it's important that snow removal operations are not impeded. The West Point snow removal plan has five priorities, ranging from the main roads and main parking lots to the smallest little nook on post. Critical to conducting these operations efficiently is the cooperation needed from everyone to park off the main roads when adverse conditions are approaching or when directed by Balfour Beatty for the housing areas and/or West Point's Emergency Services personnel. If someone is going on leave or Temporary Duty, don't leave your vehicle in a parking lot.
If you want to obtain real-time information on road conditions anywhere in NYS, you should consider signing up for 5-1-1 by using the website: https://511ny.org/default.aspx or download the app on your mobile device.
For those of us living in the Northeast, winter weather is an unavoidable part of our lives. While most of the time these weather elements are only a nuisance to our daily routines, they can produce hazardous or life-threatening situations for those who are not prepared or do not take the proper precautions.
This winter, be prepared, stay informed and enjoy the season.
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