While most of us were enjoying a warm New Mexico spring and summer, Sandia Environment, Safety and Health, Emergency Management, Facilities and other stakeholders have been busy preparing for the weather vagaries of fall and winter to keep the workforce safe and informed.
Workforce messaging for weather events has been refined, as has the procedure of notifying employees about closures, delayed openings and early releases due to inclement weather.
“Sandia bases its early release, closure or delayed start decisions on weather conditions on site at the Labs, not where employees reside,” said David Stuhan, acting director of Environment, Safety and Health. “At the core of every decision is the safety of our employees. Please use personal judgment in your decisions about getting to and from the Labs due to weather conditions. If you feel weather or road conditions are unsafe, contact your manager.” If you already are a telecommuter, you are expected to work from home regardless of weather conditions.
The day of a significant weather event, an early release will be communicated as quickly as possible to the workforce via text and email. For overnight weather events that prompt a closure or delayed opening, every effort will be made to communicate changes to the workforce by 5 a.m.
If weather or road conditions are questionable but the Sandia site is determined to be safe, a notification may be sent via text and email that Sandia is open for business. However, if employees haven’t received an early release, closure or delayed opening notification, it is business as usual at the Labs. “If you have not been notified by Sandia of a change in operations, you are expected to follow your normal work schedule,” said Emergency Operations Manager Jim Breen. “We won’t normally broadcast workforce messages indicating Sandia is open for business.”
Sounds simple, right? A decision is made, and a Labswide text and email notification follow. Staff might be surprised, however, at what it takes to deliver accurate, timely weather-related workforce messages and prepare Sandia’s New Mexico site for the safe departure or arrival of its employees.
Assessing the weather
Making the decision to close Sandia due to inclement weather is a major undertaking requiring layers of assessments, briefings, reviews and approvals.
For Sandia’s purposes, inclement weather is any existing or forecast weather event that might impact Sandia facilities and the health and safety of employees. That could include snow, sleet, ice, flash flooding and fog. Other elements that might trigger a workforce message could include lightning, extreme temperatures or high winds.
Weather monitoring at Sandia Labs is unrelenting. Existing or forecast storms are continually assessed for their timing, potency, duration and impact. Duty officers in Sandia’s 24/7 Emergency Management Communications Center are on the frontline evaluating and reporting these events and their effect on Sandia employees, facilities and operations.
Sources like the National Weather Service, local media outlets and even interstate freeway cameras are scanned to determine when action might need to be taken. For on-site conditions, duty officers are in contact with Sandia Facilities’ grounds and roads teams to determine existing conditions and mitigation plans in preparation for workforce arrival at 6 a.m. or early release when the weather event occurs during working hours.
Duty officers also track closure activities at Kirtland Air Force Base, local and state government offices, public schools and other large employers in the area.
If further assessment is needed, the duty officer checks in with Sandia’s Emergency Management agency representative, who deploys to the field and gathers additional information on onsite road conditions, along with the status of turnstiles, parking lots and walking surfaces.
For dicey weather conditions or forecasts, a virtual meeting is called that includes Sandia Emergency Management leadership, Communications, Sandia grounds and roads leadership and telecommunicators.
Once convened, briefings are shared regarding current and forecast weather, road conditions and any changes in work schedules by other large employers in the area. Sandia Facilities then provides a briefing on grounds and road conditions.
If there’s an overnight weather event, the early morning briefing includes efforts to prepare the site for safe access and operations, and projections of completing site preparation for a workforce arrival of 6 a.m.
Based on all the above inputs, recommendations regarding Sandia operations come from the duty officer, Sandia Agency Representative, facilities, grounds and roads team lead, and the Emergency Management operations manager. Ultimately, the Emergency Management senior manager makes the determination to escalate the issue to an executive meeting for a conclusive decision.
If a Sandia executive meeting is called for an existing or pending weather event, the associate lab director for infrastructure operations, ES&H director, Sandia Field Office, ProForce and R&D Science & Engineering senior managers join the group for a full briefing and discussion. If an executive meeting is called for a possible early morning closure or delayed opening decision, the group convenes by 4:15 a.m.
When a decision is made to close the Labs or delay its opening, it is broadcast via text and email to the workforce by 5 a.m. to advise the workforce prior to the 6 a.m. start time. The dynamic nature of a weather event might affect this self-imposed deadline, but all efforts will be made to advise employees by 5 a.m. If the executive group elects to keep the Labs open, no message will be sent.
Inclement weather notifications from Emergency Management will provide clear language on any protective action for the workforce, including a closure or specific times for early release or delayed opening. This information also will be posted to Sandia’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and its internal and external websites. Sandia media relations will provide closure or delayed opening information to the local television stations.
Workforce notifications also will include additional sources for local weather conditions or forecasts; local road conditions; contacts for reporting hazardous site conditions; and directions on time charging.
“With these procedures, we’ll provide even clearer, more timely and decisive messaging to the workforce on how to proceed for an existing or looming inclement weather event,” said Jillian Konst, acting senior manager for Emergency Management. “We will continue refining this process to help keep Sandia employees safe and informed.”