When winter weather is forecast for the Okmulgee area, the decision to cancel classes isn’t made lightly or by just one person. It’s a real team-effort.
Devin DeBock, OSUIT’s emergency manager, said when it looks like inclement weather may affect the OSUIT community, he assesses conditions and data from several weather sources, departments and agencies, and with the Executive Vice President Dr. Linda Avant, decides whether to activate the campus’s Inclement Weather Team, a specialized group within the Emergency Management Team.
In the case of the storms that hit early this week, several calls and communications were made leading up to decisions to close Monday and Tuesday.
“We certainly didn’t take this round of storms lightly. We had a conference call at 6 p.m., on Sunday─ yes in the middle of the Super Bowl─ to determine Monday’s closing,” Avant said.
The Inclement Weather Team then talked again Monday afternoon at 3 p.m, that night at 9 p.m., and then again at 4 a.m., Tuesday, when the call was made to delay opening. The team, made up of OSUIT President Bill R. Path, OSUIT Police Chief Matt Wooliver, Physical Plant Director Mark Pitcher, Director of Communications Shari Erwin as well as Avant and DeBock, held a final conference call Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m., when it was decided to cancel classes.
“Our main reason is always the concern for the safety of our students and employees, especially in light of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol asking motorists to stay off our ‘slick and hazardous’ roads,” she said.
OSU Institute of Technology is a certified StormReady University by the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
DeBock said that means the Emergency Management Team has direct access to forecast data, real-time storm spotter information, real-time radar, direct communication with the National Weather Service and the state’s Department of Emergency Management, as well as weather and radar software to provide the most accurate weather forecast for Okmulgee County.
“The decision to close OSUIT is reached with great care and consideration,” he said, and a multitude of factors are taken into consideration by the team before a decision is made. “These factors include but are not limited to day of the week and time of day the storm occurs; advanced warning; the amount of snow, ice and wind; but always with the concern for safety as the most important.”
And not everyone gets to stay home when classes are cancelled.
Avant said Physical Plant staff worked Monday and Tuesday clearing campus parking lots and streets of snow and ice.
“It is also important to recognize those who report to work on campus no matter the conditions of the weather. Even when classes are closed, essential personnel remain on duty, including staff from the Emergency Management Office, OSUIT Campus Police, Physical Plant, Cafeteria, Office of Communications, and Residential Life. These employees report to work, no matter what the conditions, to ensure essential services are provided for the students calling the OSUIT residence halls home,” DeBock said.