Weather decisions based on risks, other factors

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Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Jason C. Land, heavy equipment operator with Roads and Grounds, uses a frontend loader to remove snow from the Frontier Conference Center parking lot Feb. 20, 2019. By the time drivers began entering post in mass at about 9 a.m. after a delayed opening, Land had been clearing snow from roads and parking lots for more than 12 hours, starting at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when another snowstorm hit post. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

With each new winter storm and its snow, ice and negative wind chills, safety is always a concern for installation employees.

The Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security has emergency management plans in place for such conditions.

“It is a decision matrix,” said John Hughes, DPTMS force protection officer.

When determining whether Fort Leavenworth will have a delayed entry, several entities are consulted.

“We have a DPTMS (official) on call and they’re gathering the information from all the key elements,” Hughes said.

The post’s Directorate of Public Works and the Directorate of Emergency Services provide on-post road status updates, while Leavenworth County Public Works, Platte County Public Works, the Kansas and Missouri Departments of Transportation and the National Weather Service provide even more information, Hughes said.

“We communicate with the city to find out the status of their roads and then we alert them of any decision that we make and get their advice on whether they can have the roads prepared for large amounts of post traffic going in or out,” Hughes said. “Things that we’re looking for on the installation are total snow accumulation, ice accumulation, and then we look at the main routes on the installation and if DPW can maintain those main routes on the installation.”

Jason C. Land, heavy equipment operator with Roads and Grounds, uses a frontend loader to remove snow from the Frontier Conference Center parking lot Feb. 20, 2019. By the time drivers began entering post in mass at about 9 a.m. after a delayed opening, Land had been clearing snow from roads and parking lots for more than 12 hours, starting at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday when another snowstorm hit post. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

DPW is responsible for clearing snow and ice from the main routes throughout the installation, as well as the adjacent sidewalks, and the parking lots. Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities is responsible for streets and sidewalks within the housing areas, and facility coordinators are responsible for clearing sidewalks around their respective buildings, Hughes said.

Once all of the information is gathered, Hughes said DPTMS uses the decision matrix to determine whether the situation is low-risk, meaning post will operate under normal hours; medium risk, meaning there will be a delayed entry or an early release; or high risk, meaning only essential employees are needed.

“By (3 a.m.), we’ve gathered all that information,” Hughes said. “We populate our matrix, and we send this to the leadership with a recommendation, and then a decision is made based on the output of the matrix.”

A similar process is used when determining early release. Early releases will be determined no later than 1 p.m., Hughes said.

Sarah Jensen, eighth-grader Patton Junior High School, and Megan Jensen, ninth-grader at Patton, shovel the driveway in front of their home in Kansa Village Feb. 20, 2019. A snowstorm the night before dumped about three more inches of snow across post, giving students another snow day. The girls planned to spend the rest of the day drinking hot chocolate and doing homework. Since teachers knew the snow day was imminent, assignments were given Tuesday, due Thursday. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

Fort Leavenworth’s operation status is determined separately from Unified School District 207, which operates on an open or closed basis, Hughes said.

“They make a separate weather decision,” Hughes said. “They are more focused on children walking to school and/or waiting at bus stops.

“The Fort Leavenworth workforce are mostly in climate-controlled facilities. Most people of the working force go from their garage to work, walk inside and they’re indoors all day. So, (wind chill) is low-impact,” he said. “We use it as part of our matrix, but it is not as heavily weighted as the schools would use the wind chill.”

For employees who still feel it is unsafe to travel to work or want to leave work early before conditions become hazardous, Hughes said liberal leave is an option.

“Personnel need to develop their own personal risk assessment to determine the conditions and whether it is safe for them to travel to work or not,” Hughes said. “Leadership has advised immediate supervisors to authorize liberal leave for those that feel the conditions are unsafe for travel. Employees must communicate with their immediate supervisors for unit specific information.”

Megan Jensen, ninth-grader at Patton Junior High School, and Sarah Jensen, eighth-grader at Patton, shovel the driveway in front of their home in Kansa Village Feb. 20, 2019. A snowstorm the night before dumped about three more inches of snow across post, giving students another snow day. The girls planned to spend the rest of the day drinking hot chocolate and doing homework. Since teachers knew the snow day was imminent, assignments were given Tuesday, due Thursday. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

For the most up-to-date information on post status, visit the Fort Leavenworth road status page at https://home.army.mil/leavenworth/index.php/about/post-status, call the hotline at 684-1600, or visit the official Fort Leavenworth Facebook page. Installation employees are all part of the AT Hoc mass warning notification system.

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