Fort Carson winter weather procedures

by Nel Lampe

Mountaineer staff

Fort Carson has a plan in place so that Soldiers and employees know what to do during severe weather. It’s sometimes referred to as “snow call.”

If snow begins falling during the night, designated Fort Carson personnel check on weather and road conditions.

Fort Carson Operations Center personnel monitor Colorado State Patrol and National Weather Service reports. Around 3 a.m., operations personnel notify Garrison Commander Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, giving him a weather and road assessment.

Snow removal procedures were limited in fiscal 2010 and will continue in fiscal 2011, compared to previous years, due to budget changes. Fort Carson Support Services will apply a minimum amount of de-icing product at gates and on hills, curves and intersections of marked emergency snow routes. Plowing of roads will occur when snow depth reaches 3 inches. The 52nd Engineer Battalion will remove snow on runways, taxiways and aircraft ramps at Butts Army Airfield and Route 1 down to the Multi Purpose Range Complex.

FCSS will remove snow from pre-identified common sidewalks that are parallel with the roadways. Snow removal of sidewalks, steps and handicap ramps will be the responsibility of facility occupants as identified in Fort Carson Regulation 420-6. Boxes of an environmentally-friendly ice-melt product are available at the Repair & Utility warehouse in building 217 for most facility occupants except housing residents. Housing residents should check with Balfour Beatty Communities on ice-melt product.

If snowfall starts overnight, FCSS will respond early in the morning so the emergency snow routes are as safe as possible to get personnel on post.

If snowfall starts during the normal workday, FCSS starts services to keep emergency snow route road conditions as safe as possible to get post employees off post. If FCSS determines the storm is significant, it will work as long as necessary to keep the emergency snow routes open for traffic and provide road condition updates to the operations center as necessary. If not determined significant, snow removal operations will stop at 6 p.m. and continue again at 3 a.m.

If a command decision is made to delay personnel reporting times or curtail operations, the FCOC will notify brigades and stand-alone battalion staff duty officers, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 and Public Affairs Office representatives.

The Public Affairs on call representative contacts area television and radio stations of the decision made by the garrison commander that affects reporting times.

Most often, the decision involves a one- or two-hour delay in reporting for duty.

The two-hour delay isn’t meant for extra sleeping time, but is meant to be used to dig out the car or shovel the driveway and then safely make your way to work.

Sometimes broadcasters use the term “essential” or “nonessential” when referring to people who should or should not report to duty.

A mission (storm) essential civilian position is a federal civilian position that requires personnel to work normal duty hours (or those hours determined by the supervisor) regardless of weather conditions, and normally will not be excused without charge to leave.

Employees who are deemed mission (storm) essential should be aware they are designated essential and should check with their supervisor if unsure about their status. For military members, commanders determine who within their organization is mission (storm) essential.

In addition to watching local TV stations or listening to radio stations, employees can call the weather hotline, 526-0096, which should be updated by 5 a.m. A recording gives current road conditions and repeats the announcement given to broadcasters.

There are three possible road conditions: green, amber and red.

  • Green road conditions mean that roads are safe to travel.
  • Amber road conditions mean that unnecessary travel should be avoided. Moderately hazardous road conditions exist, but Soldiers and employees should report for duty.
  • Red road conditions means roads are icy or deeply covered in snow. Only mission-essential personnel should report.

In extreme weather conditions, the post may be closed. In that case, Soldiers and civilian employees will not report for duty that day. It will be the Soldiers’ and employees’ responsibility to keep updated by contacting their chain of command or listening or watching for updates on local television or radio stations.

Once notified by Fort Carson Operations

Center that the garrison commander, in coordination with the post commander, has authorized late reporting or closing, Public Affairs notifies local television and radio stations.

The stations use that information in their broadcasts or run a “crawl” along the bottom of the screen.

“Information about Fort Carson’s duty status should be available on major radio stations and local television stations before 6 a.m.,” said Brandy Gill, chief of Media Relations, Fort Carson Public Affairs.

If a storm develops during the work day, phased release may be authorized and announced through the mass notification system although such notification does not automatically excuse Soldiers and employees. Commanders and directors may excuse personnel whose presence is not necessary to perform essential functions, using phased release in three waves:

Personnel released first will be those who reside 15 miles or more from Fort Carson.

The second wave will be released half an hour after the first wave, and will include those who reside five-15 miles off post.

The third wave release will be an hour after the first, and will include other employees and Soldiers.

The extreme weather guidelines are especially important in Colorado, where weather can be fickle.

The weather pattern may vary from year to year. Last year, the first snow fell Sept. 21. This year, temperatures of almost 90 degrees were reached almost every day during the last week of September, lulling residents into thinking this nice weather will continue.

But, this is Colorado and Colorado Springs is at more than 6,000 feet elevation.

There may be snow one day, and it’s melted by the next day. There may be a few days of warm weather, followed by a heavy snow.

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