Last week, Boston College issued a closure of University facilities due to heavy snow forecasts. During such periods, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) takes increased measures to ensure campus safety and immediate snow removal-a set of duties Director of OEM John Tommaney has employed during his time at BC to prepare campus for an extensive range of hazards and emergencies.
“Our philosophy is that everyone has a role to play in an emergency and we strive to create a culture of preparedness,” Tommaney said in an email. “When an emergency occurs, we coordinate the University’s response working with the Emergency Management Executive Team (EMET) and other administrators.”
The EMET is comprised of senior representatives from BCPD, the Provost’s Office, the Executive Vice President’s Office, the President’s Office, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA), Information Technology Services (ITS), Financial Services, Facilities Management, and the Athletics Department, among others. The EMET’s focus is to prioritize and coordinate the response and to restore any potentially impacted facilities.
Tommaney noted that when the EMET is not operating in the event of an emergency, the team still meets regularly to develop preventative plans, conduct emergency drill training, and test the plans and procedures it develops.
OEM also continually performs training programs and outreach sessions with its partners, such as BCPD, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and Eagle EMS to assist in the development of what the office identifies as “Business Continuity Plans”-plans that guide University departments through emergencies and provide insight into how to restore operations immediately.
While the main office consists of two full time employees and several work-study students, the EMET includes 20 senior officials and is supplemented by approximately 20 additional individuals. The entirety of the University’s emergency workforce, however, encompasses hundreds of individuals when accounting for OEM’s partner departments, including BC Dining Services and Residential Life.
When it comes to particularly heavy snow, OEM occasionally works with outside contractors to bring in additional equipment, but it rarely does so given the reach and efficiency of Facilities Management.
“We have a great crew between grounds and housekeeping who do yeoman’s work at keeping our campus cleared of snow,” Tommaney said. “Facilities Management does a great job of managing these events and are supported by Dining Services, Police, Parking and Transportation, Emergency Management, and several other offices if needed.”
When preparing for an impending storm or severe weather, OEM begins tracking weather as soon as it’s alerted to the forecasted storm, typically from four to seven days in advance.
“We maintain a very close working relationship with the National Weather Service and participate in regular conference calls and updates during this lead up time to a storm,” Tommaney said. “Our office sends out regular notices and updates to the EMET, Senior Administrators, and several other offices on campus to keep them updated on the forecast and actions they should be taking to prepare for the storm. If a large storm is forecast, we also coordinate with our Boston area peers and emergency management officials at the local and state levels.”
The decision regarding whether BC will close as a result of inclement weather-be it a full closure, early release, or delayed start-rests with Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan. After coordinating with the President’s Office, executive vice president, and provost, Sullivan consults OEM, Facilities Management, and the Office of News and Public Affairs to analyze decisions made by other surrounding institutions.
“If after consulting the decision is made to take an action, my office works with News and Public Affairs to get an alert out to the campus community about the decision and where to get more information,” Tommaney said.