Severe Weather Closure

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Division of Administration and Finance
Responsible University Office Environmental Health and Safety
Responsible Officer(s) Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Chief of Police
Contact Person Scott Mooberry, smooberry@niu.edu
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 05-01-2018
Last Review Date 05-01-2018
Policy Category/Categories Campus Safety / Security

Standard Operating Procedure Weather Forecasting; Monitoring; Campus Closure Assessment, Decision, and Communication Processes

University Leadership has the following options to consider for weather related concerns. As a general rule, the university is always open. With the exception of certain designated essential service personnel, it is the personal responsibility of all faculty, staff, and students to make their own decisions and judgments concerning travel conditions and the danger of attending classes or coming to work under conditions which they personally believe to be unsafe.
  • Full campus operations including class schedules (unless cancelled by individual faculty members) remain in effect.
  • Classes are cancelled at one or more NIU campus locations with campus offices and physical facilities remaining operational. Employees should exercise judgment in terms of travel conditions. Designated essential service personnel are required to report for duty.
  • An emergency closure of one or more campus locations is authorized due to a severe weather emergency. Classes are cancelled, and all offices and physical facilities are closed with the exception of essential service operations. Employees are placed on excused absence with the exception of designated essential service personnel who are required to report for duty (weather conditions and the status of operations at the offcampus centers may differ from the DeKalb campus).

Weather Forecasting

The Office of Emergency Management and Planning (EMP) will provide bi-weekly weather forecasts for all NIU campuses by 12:00 pm every Monday and Friday.

  • Information provided by EMP is based on weather forecasts provided by the National Weather Service (NWS)
  • Sign up for “iNWS – Interactive NWS” to keep up to date on significant and sudden changes in weather
  • Weather information provided by EMP will cover a 7-day period with special emphasis on the first 3-day period (72 hours).
    • Monday’s weather forecast will cover Monday thru Sunday with a detailed forecast for Monday thru Wednesday.
    • Friday’s weather forecast will cover Friday thru Thursday with a detailed forecast for Friday thru Sunday.
    • EMP will provide special notifications for sudden or developing weather conditions as necessary.
  • EMP will distribute weather forecasts via niu.edu email to the Division heads and designees specified in Appendix A.
  • EMP and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) will do an internal assessment of weather conditions based on the NIU Severe Weather Model for School Closures (SWM) and some basic weather criteria noted below.
  • When the SWM score ≥50 is determined OR at least one of the following triggers are met, a Preliminary Weather Assessment call will be initiated with the Facilities Management Campus Services Group (FMCSG).
    • Negative 10 degree temps
    • Negative 30 degree wind chill
    • >2” snow event
    • Any freezing rain condition
    • 40 mph wind gusts
  • When the SWM score is ≥100 OR a determination for closure consideration emerges from the Preliminary Weather Assessment call, a Weather Closure Determination call will be initiated involving the Campus Closure Advisory Group (CCAG. The Weather Closure Determination call will typically follow the Preliminary Weather Assessment call unless time is of the essence.

Winter Severe Weather

  • High-confidence forecasts can be anticipated 12 hours prior.
    • Closure assessment should be facilitated 12 hours before the start of morning classes or 9 hours before evening classes, if possible.
  • Low-confidence forecasts may only be accurate 4 hours prior.
    • Closure assessment should be facilitated as soon as accurately possible.
    • Weather with a high-confidence of severity but low-confidence of impact should facilitate a notification warning message to the university.

Warm Severe Weather

  • Flash flooding or widespread flooding caused by prolonged rains can be anticipated 12 hours prior.
    • Flooding that closes, or is expected to close major roads should facilitate a closure assessment.
  • Tornadoes, hail, lightning, or damaging winds are often indicated only by favorable conditions.
    • Due to a rapid onset, observation and notification will be done by the Department of Police & Public Safety, Telecommunications Center, and the Office of Emergency Management & Planning. 

Notification Process

The Department of Police & Public Safety Telecommunications Center will be available 24/7 to schedule and host weather conference calls using the Emergency Notification System (ENS).

  • EHS will contact the Telecommunications Center for situations requiring the Facilities Management and Campus Services Group (FMCSG).
  • EHS and/or EMP will contact the Telecommunications Center for situations requiring the Campus Closure Advisory Group (CCAG).
  • Any member of FMCSG or CCAG can contact the Telecommunications Center for situations requiring a conference call for their respective groups

Working Groups 

Group Process
FMCSG Preliminary Assessment
CCAG Closure Determination
CCPG Decision Implementation

Facilities Management and Campus Services Group (FMCSG)

The FMCSG consists of representatives of the following:

  • Associate Vice President (AVP) for Facilities Management and Campus Services (FMCS)
    • Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)
      • Building Services
      • Grounds
      • Physical Plant
      • Heating Plant
      • Transportation
  • Director of Outreach Operations for Outreach, Engagement, & Regional Development (OERD)
  • Commander of Department of Police & Public Safety
    • Emergency Management & Planning (EMP)
  • Assistant Vice President (AVP) for Student Affairs
    • Holmes Student Center
  • Associate Director of Athletics
  • Vice Provost for Office of Executive Vice President & Provost
    • Budget & Planning
    • Business Administration

Campus Closure Advisory Group (CCAG)

The CCAG consists of the following personnel: 

  • Chief of Staff
  • Executive Vice President & Provost and/or Vice Provost
    • Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and/or designee
  • Vice President for Administration and Finance & Chief Financial Officer (VP/CFO)
  • AVP Facilities Management & Campus Services and/or designee
  • Director of Outreach Operations for Outreach, Engagement, & Regional Development (OERD)
  • Chief of Police and/or designee
    • Emergency Management & Planning Coordinator and/or designee
  • Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marking & Communications (EMMC) or and/designee
    • Institutional Communications and/or designee
  • Senior AVP Human Resources Services and/or designee 

Campus Closure Process Group (CCPG)

  • The CCPG consists of representatives of the following:
    • Associate Vice President (AVP) for Facilities Management and Campus Services (FMCS)
      • Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)
      • Building Services
      • Grounds
      • Physical Plant
      • Heating Plant
      • Transportation
  • Director of Outreach Operations for Outreach, Engagement, & Regional Development (OERD)
  • Commander of Department of Police & Public Safety
    • Emergency Management & Planning (EMP)
  • Assistant Vice President (AVP) for Student Affair
    • Holmes Student Center
  • Associate Director of Athletics
  • Vice Provost for Office of Executive Vice President & Provost
    • Budget & Planning
    • Business Administration
  • Enrollment Management, Marketing & Communications (EMMC)
    • Institutional Communications
    • Internal & Web Communications

Weather Assessment Process

Preliminary Weather Assessment

When the SWM score ≥50 is determined OR at least one of the following triggers are met, a coordination conference call will be initiated with the FMCSG to evaluate safety, mission impact, preparation, and recovery assessments. This call will typically determine the need to initiate a subsequent Weather Closure Determination conference call.

  • Negative 10 degree temps
  • Negative 30 degree wind chill
  • >2” snow event
  • Any freezing rain condition
  • 40 mph wind gusts
  • Weather Closure Determination

When the SWM score is ≥100 OR a determination for closure consideration emerges from the Preliminary Weather Assessment call, EMP will initiate a phone conference with the Campus Closure Advisory Group (CCAG).

Campus Closure Advisory Group (CCAG)

Uses weather forecasts, warnings, and SWM scores to make an informed recommendation to the President to close one or more campuses.

  • Provost will provide recommendation of CCAG to the President
  • VP/CFO will provide recommendation in the absence of the Provost
  • CCAG will appoint a designee to provide the recommendation in the absence of the Provost and VP/CFO

Campus Closure Process Group (CCPG)

Upon Presidential approval of the CCAG recommendation, the Campus Closure Process Group (CCPG) will convene by conference call to direct the closure process.

Decision Implementation Process

1. EMP and/or NIU PD Dispatch sends forecast to FMCSG
2. EMP & EHS evaluates basic thresholds and completes SWM for call triggers
a. Basic thresholds to trigger a Preliminary Weather Assessment conference call
i. Negative 10 degree temps
ii. Negative 30 degree wind chill
iii. >2” snow event
iv. Any freezing rain condition
v. 40 mph wind gusts
vi. SWM score ≥50 points
b. SWM score ≥100 points will automatically trigger a Weather Closure Determination conference call typically following the Preliminary Weather Assessment conference call.
3. CCAG makes closure recommendation to President
a. Presidential approval for campus closure
4. EMP coordinates CCPG conference call
a. Completion of Weather Campus Closure Checklist (Appendix B)

5. Reassessment (4:00 PM) by CCAG; repeat 1-6

CCAG Closure Question Topics
  • FMCSG operational update
    • Closure assessment
  • Comparison factors for closing
    • Human impact
    • Classes
    • Events
    • Essential Personnel
  • Business impact
    • Operational
    • Events
    • Academics
  • Closure recommendation
    • None / Partial / Full
    • Type of closure
CCPG Closure Question Topics
  • Academics / Students 
  • Housing / Dining / Transportation
  • Facilities
  • Special Events
  • Building Services
  • Essential Employees
  • Satellite Campuses
  • Communication to University
  • Communication to Divisions

Appendix A Weather Forecast Distribution List

  • Office of the President
    • Chief of Staff
    • Executive Vice President and Provost (EVPP)
  • Student Affairs (SA)\
  • Human Resources (HR)
  • Vice President for Administration and Finance & Chief Financial Officer (VP/CFO)
  • Facilities Management and Campus Services (FMCSG)
  • Associate Vice President (AVP) for FMCSG
  • Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)
    • Building Services
    • Grounds
    • Physical Plant
    • Heating Plant
  • Transportation
  • Police and Public Safety
  • Chief of Police
    • Command Staff
    • Supervisory Staff
  • Athletics and Special Events
    • Senior Associate Athletics Director
  • Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development (OERD)
    • Director, Outreach Operations
  • Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications
    • Institutional Communications
    • Web and Internal Communications 

Appendix B Weather Campus Closure Checklist

  • President approves of closure and type 
  • Campus Closure Process Group (CCPG) conference call
  • Schedule reassessment call time
  • EMMC develops campus message with Chief of Staff approval
  • Special event cancellations, considerations, or notifications
    • Student Events
    • Athletic Events
    • Commercial Events
  • Academic
    • Class status
    • Special considerations
    • Concerns
  • Students
    • Local impact
    • Commuter impact
    • Special populations
    • Concerns
  • Housing
    • Availability
    • Essential personnel housing
    • Concerns
  • Dining
    • Availability
    • Resource needs
    • Restrictions
    • Concerns
  • Transportation
    • Availability
    • Restrictions
    • Concerns
  • Building Services
    • Availability
    • Concerns
  • Facilities
    • Availability
    • Resource needs
    • Concerns
  • Division
    • Internal notification
    • Closure impact
    • Employee / student concerns
    • Resource needs
    • Communication tree
  • Public Safety
    • Minimum Staffing
  • CCAG conference call to reassess for closure 

Appendix C Weather Closure Contact List

See the Weather Closure Contact List for an updated listing of contacts. This list is maintained and made available through the Office of Emergency Management & Planning.
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