November 09, 2018

Know your group assignment for bad weather closings

weather closing color 500UAB and UAB Health System have improved the process for announcing academic and employment requirements during closings due to bad weather so students and employees are more clearly and quickly informed of whether or not they need to report for class or work during a weather event.

When severe weather is anticipated in Central Alabama and beyond, decisions must be made for different UAB entities, students, employees and patients across a complex academic, research and health care organization. Announcements can be delayed or complicated because “closing” does not mean the same thing for all students, employees and hospital and clinic patients. 

Under the new system, each student and employee is assigned to a group — Green, Yellow or Red — and is responsible for knowing his or her group assignment. Check yours using the Weather Group tile in the UAB app or use the “Check My Group” feature at uab.edu/emergency/weather.

A test of the new system was conducted Nov. 15,  and the process was launched Nov. 30.

How will this work?

“Closing UAB is a complex prospect,” said Alesia Jones, chief human resources officer. “Classes may close but clinics like The Kirklin Clinic might remain open for our patients, and UAB Hospital never closes. And when we close, residential students and some employees remain on campus and need support services.”

Each member of the UAB community is responsible for knowing his or her group assignment. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to download the UAB app and learn more and access resources at uab.edu/emergency/weather.

The new student and employee group assignments are intended to address these challenges and improve communication around weather closings:

  • GREEN group entities/functions always close when operations are canceled for weather. Academic classes are an example of these; when UAB closes, classes are canceled for faculty and students. Employees with duties considered non-essential during a weather closing also are part of this group and will not report.
  • YELLOW group entities/functions may or may not close depending on the nature of the weather event and decisions by management/supervisors. This group includes entities such as the Hill Student Center and UAB clinics, which may stay open or close when academic functions at the university are canceled. Employees in this group will be required to understand their unit-specific plans in addition to the global UAB plan.
  • RED group entities/functions never close and must continue to operate regardless of the weather. UAB Hospital and the UAB Police Department are examples of these.

The group to benefit most from the new process, Jones says, are the more than 30,000 students and employees assigned to the Green group, because initial closing announcements can be communicated in a more timely manner.

“In the past, we have known that classes would be canceled the next day, but we needed to hold off on announcing the closing until other campus entities made decisions,” Jones said. “Because closed means something different to constituent groups on campus, we needed to know what all entities were doing before we said we were closed. The new process allows us to segment audiences to inform some particularly the Green group more quickly.”

One historical area of confusion the new system will address is people who have multiple assignments:

  • Example 1: A student who also works as an employee in the Hill Student Center will be assigned two groups: Green for the student’s academic responsibilities and Yellow for his or her responsibilities as an employee. The student will not attend canceled classes, but he or she may need to report to work. Whether the Hill Student Center is open or closed, a supervisor will provide direction when that decision is made.
  • Example 2: A faculty member in a health-related school such as the School of Nursing who also works at UAB Hospital will be assigned to two groups: Green for his or her faculty appointment in Nursing and Red for the hospital appointment because UAB Hospital never closes. The faculty member will not teach class but will report to the hospital to care for patients.

Under the new system, a B-Alert text (maximum 140 characters) may read, “UAB to close at 11 am Monday. GREEN group CLOSED. YELLOW group follow supervisor instruction. Red remains open. Details at uab.edu/emergency.”

Under the new system, a B-Alert text (maximum 140 characters) may read, “UAB to close at 11 am Monday. GREEN group CLOSED. YELLOW group follow supervisor instruction. Red remains open. Details at uab.edu/emergency.

“Stakes are extremely high for patients and employees when weather forces a health system to alter operational schedules,” said Health System CEO Will Ferniany. “We must ensure that patients in our clinics and hospitals receive care when they need it to avoid adverse outcomes, while keeping everyone safe from the weather threat. UAB is a complex organization, and this practical solution was painstakingly devised by a team of university and Health System professionals for the benefit of the entire UAB community and those we serve.”

Human Resources professionals began meeting in the 2017 fall semester with campus leaders to assign units or job titles to the appropriate groups. That data was programmed to enable students or employees to view individual group assignments in the UAB app and online at uab.edu/emergency/weather/weather.

Anticipating bad weather

When a weather closing is being considered, UAB Emergency Management will provide early alerts and updates to Yellow and Red group managers/supervisors to support, help inform and speed along decisions to be made subsequent to the initial (GREEN group) closing announcement. The B-Alert system and uab.edu/emergency will be used to communicate updates, and University Relations will share pertinent information with news media and on social media to inform clinic patients and visitors to campus such as patrons of arts or athletics events.

“When bad weather is anticipated, we stay in close contact with the National Weather Service and local meteorologists to make informed recommendations appropriate for our unique campus,” said Randy Pewitt, executive director of Emergency Management and Safety. “We also collect information about class and work schedules, events and from where the UAB community is driving to campus. Leadership across the university and Health System ask that we carefully weigh the information and err on the side of caution and safety in our recommendations. This new process will enhance our ability to protect our campus with clear and timely information.”