When Icy Conditions Exist

By Karli Massey

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, January 05, 2017

When icy conditions exist

On Dec. 14, 2015, a series of unexpected weather events led to an icy and treacherous Monday morning. As Sandians arrived at work, many slipped on black ice, causing them to fall and get hurt. In a single day, 14 injuries were caused by ice. Freezing weather ensued for the next several days, and more people were injured.           

“There were numerous lessons learned that resulted from those events,” says Jaime Moya (4100), director of Environment, Safety and Health (ES&H) and Chief of Safety.  “The groups within our Infrastructure Operations Division took the lessons and used them to not only improve our current injury prevention efforts, but to take them to the next level.  Safety of our employees is our driving force.”

The ES&H and Facilities centers have identified the areas across Sandia that are prone to icy conditions and have placed more visible ice melt containers at those sites. Other visual reminders, including new warning signs that indicate icy conditions, should also enhance safety. Communications about inclement weather conditions have also increased.

Aside from safety messages and visual indicators, a network of dedicated employees from across Sandia remains vigilant and ready to deal with whatever Mother Nature delivers this winter.     

Ready to respond

The first line of defense is Sandia’s Emergency Management Communications Center (EMCC) team, which is on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The EMCC team monitors weather forecasts across Sandia’s sites. Using a three-day outlook, the EOC keeps Facilities informed of any possible inclement weather.

“There are about 20-65 people who are members of our New Mexico-based structural services team who are on-call and ready to respond to clear roads and walkways during and after storms,” says Mark Coffing (4843), Facilities manager. “We want to keep ahead of the game and ensure the site is safe when people arrive to work and as they make their way across the campus.”

If snow continues to fall through the night, the EMCC and shift operations coordinators (incident commanders) continuously patrol the site, evaluating conditions. Mark and other team members are also on call, receiving updates up through 3 a.m. “That is when we decide whether to activate the snow removal team.”

Arrival time for the snow removal team is between 3:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. with the goal of having roads and walkways cleared as early as 7 a.m.  They, in turn, keep the EMCC updated as to the conditions of the site. 

Executive management is also kept in the loop on the weather and conditions around the site and is responsible for determining if there is a delayed start, early closing, or site closure. The workforce is then informed through various types of media of the delays or closures.

“One area of improvement for workforce weather notifications is to set a specific start time,” says Lita Suina (42365), team lead for the EMCC. “Sandians have such varying start times, a delayed start can be confusing. To ensure our Facilities team has sufficient time to clear the roads and walkways, this year we will be issuing a definitive start time, such as 9 a.m.”

“Another way we encourage people to stay safe is to keep on the cleared paths,” Mark says. “While it may not be the typical path you take to your office or it may not be the usual entrance you use to access your lab, we clear specific paths for various reasons including exposure to sunlight and efficiency for our crews.”

“Along with being aware of your surroundings and wearing appropriate shoes for snowy conditions, avoiding walking across the snow and ice is the best way to prevent slipping and falling,” he adds.

Know where to go when winter weather hits

When winter weather strikes, do you know where to go for information about Sandia work delays or closures?

Should overnight weather conditions make the Labs’ parking lots unsafe until they are cleared, Sandia’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will distribute a workforce message about the delay, including a specific time to report to work, and other relevant details including how to charge time for the delay.

Under typical snowy conditions, messages will be sent no later than 5 a.m. the day of the delay, and will include a stipulated start time depending on the severity of the storm.

Messages will be delivered in a variety of ways, beginning with Sandia email, allowing employees to monitor the information sources most convenient to them. These sources include:

  • Sandia email
  • Sandia Bulletin Board (Dial 845-6789 and follow the menu choices; 925-294-3333 for California-specific events.)
  • Radio Sandia, 1640 AM
  • Alert banners on Sandia’s external homepage, www.sandia.gov, and internal Sandia Techweb
  • News coverage through local television and radio stations
  • Sandia Facebook, facebook.com/SandiaLabs, and
  • Sandia Twitter, twitter.com/SandiaLabs

During inclement weather, employees should follow arrangements made with their manager for weather delays, including any telecommuting work. Information regarding road conditions can be found at www.nmroads.com/ in New Mexico, or http://511.org in California.

Additional inclement weather considerations

When at work, as weather deteriorates, pay attention to email notices and keep in mind proactive winter precautions from Security and Emergency Management.

Emergency, safety & health

  • Do not overload yourself with hand-carried items while walking. High winds combined with the inability to use your hands and arms to balance make you prone to falling.
  • Be aware that the wind may stir up debris causing ear, nose, throat, and eye vulnerabilities. You should consider eye protection and respiratory guards/masks to mitigate any airborne debris hazards.
  • Be mindful of doors blowing open in windy conditions.
  • If it should snow or become icy, be aware of slipping hazards. Sandia annually averages two to three slips in parking lots as the result of slippery surfaces and inadequate footwear.
  • Assist others if you recognize they may be compromising their safety or the safety of others.
  • Situational awareness is paramount when an unrecognized hazard surfaces. Situational awareness improves reaction time and provides space to recover from incidents that could result in injury.


  • High winds may prevent security area (i.e. Limited Area, Property Protection Area, etc.) entry/exit points from securing properly. When entering or exiting a security area, ensure that those entry/exit points are properly secured to prevent the compromise of classified, critical infrastructure, and personnel.
  • Report any urgent facility issues that could lead to a compromise in security to the Facilities Management and Operations Center (FMOC) at 844-4571.