By Philip Carter
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — It’s October in Colorado Springs and severe winter weather can begin at any time. People who live and work at Peterson Air Force Base need to start preparing for snow and understanding the local snow call procedures.
Here at Peterson when adverse snow and ice conditions occur, safety is paramount. The 21st Space Wing commander makes a decision regarding whether to institute a base closure, delayed reporting or early release due to hazardous weather.
First, commanders and supervisors need to make sure their personnel are aware if their positions are mission essential or non-essential. Mission essential personnel have jobs with critical operations and must report for duty at the regularly scheduled time, whereas non-essential personnel can have delayed reporting as conditions warrant.
The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron, the 21st Security Forces Squadron and the base weather flight, monitor the weather and road conditions to keep the 21st Mission Support Group commander up-to-date on these conditions. The MSG commander then makes recommendations to the wing commander, which allows him to decide if the base will be on phased early release, normal reporting, delayed reporting or base closure.
All of this happens before 4:30 a.m. on days with potentially dangerous conditions. This allows the 21 SW Public Affairs office to get the message out to the base community by 5:30 a.m. or within 30 minutes of notification. The decision is disseminated through the use of the Peterson Snow Call Line (719-556-SNOW), the “Peterson AFB: 21st Space Wing” Facebook page, alert text messages through AtHoc and PAFBalert Twitter, the base website, local news agencies and radio stations.
If the commander determines the base will have normal reporting, base personnel are required to report to work at their regularly scheduled time.
If it’s determined the base will be put on a delayed reporting status, non-essential personnel should report no earlier than the time given to safely report for duty.
“The delayed reporting is designed to allow 21st Civil Engineer Squadron to clear snow from roads and parking lots.” said Master Sgt. John Keller, NCO in charge of the CE heavy equipment section. “This is the reason that it is crucial for non-essential personnel to report to work no earlier than the designated time”
“Regardless of the conditions on base and the commander’s weather call, each person must assess their own situation and driving conditions for safety, using Risk Management processes,” the 2016-2017 Memorandum of Hazardous Weather Procedures states. “When in doubt, consult your chain of command. Our goal is zero accidents or injuries for our commuting personnel. Coordinate with your supervisor if your situation requires special consideration.”
When the decision is made to close the base, only essential personnel will report to or stay on duty.
Phased early release is used to release non-essential personnel in three 30-minute intervals when hazardous weather is on the way. Personnel are designated zones based on where they live in the surrounding area. It is designed to allow people to travel home as soon as possible and safely without creating congestion on base.
When snow is imminent, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with the base, chain of command and listen to local media to know road conditions and what to do to stay safe.