With forecasts calling for the first snowfall of the season later this week, UCCS is reminding its campus community about how a winter closure is decided, when those those decisions are typically made and the communication channels that are used to relay information.
How a decision is made
Safety for students, faculty and staff is the top concern on decisions to close campus. The primary factor will be road conditions, which is based on information from UCCS Police and the City of Colorado Springs. Other factors include future weather predictions by the National Weather Service and local school district decisions.
Campus facilities conditions is also a factor, but facilities services crews work to clear parking lots, campus roads, sidewalks and stairways to keep snow from accumulating. Crews report as needed throughout the day and night to keep up with snowfall.
Weather conditions and forecasts can change significantly within a matter of hours because of slight variations in storm track and intensity. UCCS looks at a variety of forecasting models to make the decision, but those weather changes may mean the storm is stronger or weaker from when the initial decision is made.
When a decision is made
UCCS officials will start to monitor incoming storms as they are forecasted, begin to evaluate potential impacts 24-48 hours in advance and continue to make adjustments with each new weather model.
Representatives from multiple areas of campus will often meet the night before to evaluate any potential closures. Facilities and UCCS Police will meet on current conditions, and consult National Weather Service data for future conditions, starting at approximately 4 a.m. Information about a delayed start or full day closure is typically announced by 6 a.m. on the impacted day. UCCS will typically not announce a closure or delay the night before, but it will if there is consensus on forecasts and road conditions. This allows university and city crews an opportunity to clear roads, parking lots and sidewalks during the night.
For an early closure, information will be communicated as quickly as possible, with the goal of at least a two hour advance notice, but if conditions deteriorate faster, campus may close on an accelerated timeline. Employees and students are encouraged to leave campus before the announced closure time if possible. Campus shuttle systems will end within 30 minutes of the announced closure time. Drivers who rely on the shuttles to reach their vehicles are encouraged to leave campus as quickly as they can when an early closure is announced.
How to find out about closures
UCCS uses multiple ways to communicate with students and employees through UCCS Alerts:
- Text messages – Make sure your number is registered with UCCS Alerts to receive emergency communications. Students are automatically enrolled with their contact information in their MyUCCS portal. Employees and parents can register as well through rave.uccs.edu.
- Email – All students and employees are registered to receive emergency communications to their UCCS email accounts.
- Website – Weather impacts are posted to the main uccs.edu page, alerts.uccs.edu and at FlashAlerts.
- Social media – UCCS Alerts communication is posted to the Facebook and Twitter pages for UCCS Emergency Management, UCCS Police and the main UCCS account.
- Traditional media – During weather events, traditional broadcast and print media rely on FlashAlerts for updated information on closures, and will also share that information.
- Phone – UCCS Police maintain a closure number at (719) 255-3346. People can call that number to learn if the campus is open, on a modified schedule or closed.
What to do during a delayed start or early close
In a delayed start, any class that is scheduled to start before the campus is open is cancelled. For example, with a 10 a.m. delayed start, any class that starts at 9:25 a.m. is cancelled for the day. A delayed start also provides essential staff an opportunity to clear campus roads and sidewalks before the university officials opens. Early arrivals on campus may delay that process as critical needs are being addressed.
In an early close, class is permitted to go until the close time.
When the campus is closed, buildings are locked and secured, and only essential staff remain on campus for critical service delivery. Additional cars in parking lots add time for crews to plow snow. If employees or students request access to a building while the campus is closed, anticipate delays as UCCS Police will likely be assisting Colorado Springs Police Department with requests for service.
I can’t safely drive to campus
Colorado weather can vary widely within a relatively short distance. If employees or students live in Monument, Woodland Park or east of Colorado Springs, weather conditions may not allow for a safe drive to campus if UCCS is open.
The decision to drive to campus is always at the discretion of the driver. For students, communicate as soon as you can with your faculty that you aren’t able to attend class that day and how to make other arrangements. For employees, communicate with your supervisor to coordinate if you can work from home, call in for meetings or take vacation.
Storms often cause traffic delays and increased congestion on the primary roads, especially the ones that surround campus. Traffic delays should be anticipated and drivers should provide additional time to reach campus during winter weather conditions.
Winter weather preparation
Drivers in Colorado should expect and be prepared to drive in winter weather conditions, whether it’s for class, work or personal reasons. The Colorado Department of Transportation provides an automotive and safety checklist that all drivers should use when driving in winter conditions. If drivers are involved in a vehicular accident on campus, they are encouraged to call UCCS Police at (719) 255-3111.
Pedestrians should also dress for weather conditions with layers and proper footwear. But if someone does slip or fall, UCCS encourages those to be reported, even if they don’t result in injury. For employees, those claims can be done through the workers compensation process. For students, those can be reported to Facilities Services at (719) 255-3313. Those reports create a record of accountability and to better identify areas on campus that need additional attention.