The Boston College campus was blanketed with snow last weekend as winter storm Nemo dropped almost 25 inches on Boston.
Even before the storm arrived, a significant amount of planning went into the University’s response.
“My office is charged with coordinating University responses to any crisis on campus. We do that by coordinating with key offices-facilities, police, dining, and so on,” said John Tommaney, director of emergency preparedness. He said that his department realized as early as Tuesday or Wednesday that they were facing a potentially serious situation, and thus began internal discussions about how to handle the storm.
“Our focus is really the safety of the students and the administrators and faculty on campus,” Tommaney said. “We also looked at the status of power, and any events on campus that might be affected by the storm.”
Director of Facilites Management Michael Jednak echoed the sentiment. “During the storm, our primary concern was the safety and security of the people living here,” Jednak said. “We focused on exits and main doors of our dining and residence halls, making sure they could get into the dining facilities.”
To coordinate the University response, Tommaney and his office were in contact with administrators, including the President’s office, Human Resources, and the Provost’s office. “We were in close contact with Dining Services, Facilities-those that would be affected by the storm-as well as Athletics and Campus Recreation,” Tommaney said. They also checked in with what Tommaney called BC’s “counterpoint institutions”-those similar to BC, including Tufts, BU, and MIT. A decision was made Thursday afternoon to close the University on Friday, and students were immediately informed via email and text.
According to Tommaney, BC Dining also made an effort to determine which workers would be available. “[Dining Services has] a series of emergency procedures put in place,” Tommaney said. “They increase their food stores on campus, in case deliveries can’t come through.” Dining consolidated its service into the three main venues-Corcoran Commons, Stuart Hall, and McElroy Hall-for the duration of the storm. “They did request that some of our workforce be prepared to stay over, which they did,” Tommaney said. In addition, student workers were encouraged to work outside their normal shifts in order to help out the BC Dining employees. Arrangements were made to accommodate those who did remain at BC-not only Dining Services employees, but also grounds staff. “Dining, Facilities, and the police all increased their staff in case others couldn’t arrive-we didn’t want some people going home at 8 or 10 p.m. expecting others to replace them, only to find that they couldn’t make it to campus,” Tommaney said. Additional police forces were sent to the Brighton, Newton, and Upper campuses in anticipation of any mishaps-likewise, Eagle EMS teams were sent to Upper and Newton so that they would have access in case anything went wrong.
Tommaney said that there were no major emergencies or unexpected challenges during the storm. “There were a few with students who were out sledding, but nothing life-threatening,” he said. “We never lost power on any of the campuses-and like I said, most of the energy was dedicated to keeping dorms and dining open.”
After the snowfall ceased, Jednak said that the focus was on making sure everything on campus opened back up in a timely manner. “After the storm-we brought in a crew today. The big push is to make sure that the buses can get running as soon as possible, that the parking lots and garages are cleared off … as well as all the sidewalk and cleanup work that’s happening,” he said.
On Thursday night, Nights on the Heights sent out an email calling for students to work on Saturday shoveling snow. The first 50 students who signed up worked Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and were paid $11 per hour. “We had them working on stairs and entrances to the buildings-a lot of hand-shoveling work,” Jednak said.
Although the Plex and libraries have already reopened and the University will be running as normal today, Tommaney and Jednak both said that cleanup efforts would continue for the next few days. “Facilities and grounds crews are working very aggressively right now,” Tommaney said. “The focus is getting key roadways clear … from curb to curb, and working to get facilities restored-we’re working with Newton, and on Lower, around the Plex, those key areas.”
Jednak said that about 50 facilities staff members, as well as contractors from three or four other companies, were on campus for cleanup.
The bubble over Alumni Stadium collapsed on Saturday morning-Tommaney said that there may have been a ripped seam, but that contractors were still working to assess the damage. He did say that no one was hurt by the bubble’s collapse-it had already been shut down at that time.
“We will be ready for the school to open [Monday], but total cleanup could last for a few more days,” Jednak said. “In terms of the students-the ones that helped were a great help, and so far everyone has been very cooperative with our staff, and we’ve been working really hard to get the place clean, so that’s appreciated by everybody.”
Tommaney seemed likewise appreciative of the University community’s response to the storm. “It seems that people heeded the warnings we sent out, via email and through ResLife,” he said. “This, unlike most winter storms, was pretty serious. The community generally did a very good job of heeding those warnings, so we thank them for that.”