CSM’s Winter Weather Decisions

By Josh Owens

Four primary campuses, two separate learning sites, and one winter weather event all make for a big decision to those in charge at the College of Southern Maryland.

CSM takes the threat of winter weather very seriously and is always looking to prepare the staff and campuses to stay alert for weather emergencies.

Donald Frick, CSM’s executive director of public safety, is one of the four people who help in the process of deciding what the college does when bad weather comes. The journey to that decision starts well before the winter season starts.

“We’re getting ready, communication-wise we’re making sure everything is working…we have a core group of people, which is myself, the director of facilities, director of communications…, and Tony Jernigan, who is the vice president of finance,” Frick said, referring to what the September and October months are like as the four prepare for the winter season.

As the Season Arrives

As the winter months hit, the four CSM staffers are always on alert and tuned into what the weather service office in Sterling, Va., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is saying along with trusted TV and weather information outlets.

The decision to close the college is not dependent on what the local public school systems do because of the widespread reach of the college across Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties.

The Night Before

The night before a storm is normally the longest for Frick and the rest of the CSM “Weather Team.” All stay up until early in the morning, sometimes until daybreak, keeping an eye on radar and are in constant communication by phone or text message. They all make a committee-style vote around 3 a.m. and send their vote on what to do to the vice president to pass along to the president.

The final decision lies with Dr. Bradley Gottfried, the president of CSM, who has the decision ready by 5 a.m.

“We try to make it (the decision to close) easy on them, and the president makes the decision solely based on the safely of the students, staff and faculty,” said Frick. “It’s absolutely based on whether he thinks the students can get here safely, be safe while they’re here, and we can send them home (safely).”

Making Decisions Regionally

While some students live a short drive away from a CSM campus, others live much further away where different impacts of a storm can be felt. That is a large factor in the closure decision as well.

Frick also mentioned that Mitchell Road (leading to the La Plata Campus) is a factor in the decision. The road accumulates ice easily because of the shading, thanks to the trees covering it.

Frick encouraged students to sign up for the text alert system that CSM has set up. Those details on how to sign up are available at http://ready.csmd.edu/csm.txt/, along with links to the school’s social media sites. NOAA released their Winter Outlook on Oct. 16 and they currently project an average winter for temperatures and a slightly above average winter for precipitation.

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