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Penn State University Libraries

Policies and Guidelines

HUMAN RESOURCES

Guideline UL-HRG09 WEATHER/EMERGENCY

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Official Closings and Cancellations Sources
  • Departure Decisions
  • Guidelines for Employees
  • Exceptions
  • Contact Lists
  • Other Sources of Information
  • Minimum Staffing

INTRODUCTION:

Occasionally severe weather conditions or other emergencies require the University to cancel classes and/or suspend operations at one or more of its campuses.  Essential employees are asked to report to work during these emergencies.  The Libraries follow University policy.  When University administrators or campus chancellors mandate a special closing due to situations such as severe weather conditions, the Libraries will conform.

Libraries’ employees are not considered essential employees.  When University administrators or campus chancellors call for a special closing, and consequently the Libraries are closed, staff cannot elect to work.  Any exceptions to this must be granted by administrators within the parameters of University policy.

OFFICIAL CLOSINGS AND CANCELLATIONS SOURCES:

Employees will be alerted to emergency closings through the official sources listed below.  If inclement weather causes the University to close before the start of a workday, the University will normally declare the closure by 5:00 a.m.  It is every employee’s responsibility to monitor one or more of the following sources when severe weather is predicted:

  • PSUAlert (news alerts sent to cell phones as SMS messages).  This service provides late-breaking news about weather, cancellations, closures, etc.  Employees must register to receive the message (http://psualert.psu.edu/)  Libraries' employees at all locations are strongly urged to register for this service. 

In addition, early information about weather-related closings will be available on:

  • WPSU Radio 90.1 (Northern Pennsylvania)
  • WPSU Radio 91.5 (Central Pennsylvania)
  • WPSU Radio 92.1 (DuBois)
  • WPSU Radio 95.1 (Treasure Lake)
  • WPSU Radio 100.9 (Bradford)
  • WPSU Radio 102.5 (Huntingdon)
  • WPSU Radio 104.7 (Clearfield)
  • WPSU Radio 106.7 (Altoona)
  • WPSU website

Other radio and television stations may not be notified immediately, and may not provide the most up-to-the-minute changes and information.  Nevertheless, local radio and television stations often will carry information about campus weather emergencies as well as PSUAlert. 

DEPARTURE DECISIONS:

Employees are encouraged to make their own decisions as to the safety of travel to and from the campus.  This should include delaying their departure from home to work until they can confirm whether the University has officially closed or not.  If employees are concerned about traveling home from work and decide they want to leave earlier or later than normally scheduled, they must seek permission from their immediate supervisor.  Supervisors are asked to be as supportive as possible of an employee’s decision by providing flexible work arrangements and/or allowing the use of vacation or personal time to cover time not worked.

GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYEES:

If an employee arrives at work and finds the University and the Libraries closed, the employee should:

  1. Return home for their own safety, as well as to allow University services the barrier-free access they need to restore safe travel conditions and accessibility to parking lots on campus. 
  2. If unable to return home due to the weather conditions or other contingencies (such as car pools, or other transportation limitations), employees must contact the immediate supervisor to notify the supervisor of the situation and to request permission to remain at work.  Explicit permission must be granted to an employee to remain at work.  If the immediate supervisor cannot be reached, follow the department’s chain of command in seeking permission.  If an employee proceeds to work without permission, disciplinary action may be taken against the employee for failure to follow policy.  The same conditions apply if an employee remains in the library when a weather-related emergency is declared during the work day.  Employees receiving permission to remain at work during an official closedown will be considered as having been deemed essential for the closedown period and will be compensated in accordance with Human Resources Guideline No. 10, Handling “Weather Day” Absences or Official University Closedowns Due to Weather Conditions.

If the University closes during the regular work day, or if weather conditions deteriorate later in the day creating potential problems for employees who work evening and late night shifts, Libraries’ administration will inform all units of pending closures and will provide instructions for employees.

Employees reporting for shifts later in the day should consult the immediate supervisor if they are concerned about deteriorating weather, or if they suspect that the University may close.  Supervisors are encouraged to exercise reasonable judgment in maintaining staffing under severe conditions.  If the University is not officially closed, the hours not worked must be charged as vacation or personal time, or unpaid time, if applicable.  If there are not enough employees to keep a unit open, the unit head or supervisor should consult the appropriate department head or dean for permission to close the unit.

If a unit closes prior to the normal posted closing time, the unit supervisor or staff must post appropriate signs, and notify other units (branches in close proximity, Lending Services, and other campuses) that they will not be open.  Posted information should include the reason for closing and anticipated time to resume business.

Example:

"Due to severe weather conditions the XX Library will be closed until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, MM/DD/YY."

EXCEPTIONS:

There may be exceptional situations that call for the Libraries to open during a University or campus closing.  The Libraries’ administration or the campus head librarian, in consultation with the campus chancellor and Senior Associate Dean, will make this decision.  In doing so, they will take into account the:

  • Safety and security of the staff
  • Severity of the conditions that called for the closing
  • Availability of staff resources
  • University calendar, e.g., finals, breaks, etc.

In the past there have been two types of circumstances that required exceptional response to the general policy and guidelines:

  1. The Libraries’ administration determines that it is prudent to open for business at the normal time despite a delayed opening announcement.  In this case, there will be minimum staffing* requirements for the duration of the delay.  Administrators will call for volunteers to open the building and staff a few vital service points.  Volunteers will be solicited from across the Libraries.  Personnel will not be required to report to work under these circumstances.  
  2. The Libraries are sometimes called upon to reopen later in the day once a weather system has passed or an emergency has abated; in doing so we assist our community in returning to its routine by contributing to a semblance of normalcy.  If it is determined by administrators that the Libraries will reopen during an official University closedown, staff will be notified by their supervisors and given a time to report.  Each unit should establish, in advance, what method will be used to contact unit personnel.

Employees required or volunteering (subject to the approval of Libraries’ administration) to work during the official closedown period will be considered essential for the hours worked during that period and will be compensated in accordance with Human Resources Guideline No. 10, Handling “Weather Day” Absences or Official University Closedowns Due to Weather Conditions.

In some weather emergency situations, such as delayed openings, the Extended Hours area in Pattee Library may remain open, in order to minimize disruption and for employee safety.  As a 24-hour facility the circumstances can require a different response than for other library facilities.  Decisions are made in consultation with the Head of Access Services.

If severe weather threatens on a weekend and information on University closures is not available via one of the previously mentioned official sources, the Head of Access Services, the Head of Public Services, the Head of Library Learning Services, or other administrator will notify unit heads and supervisors of the Libraries’ intent to close.

Each emergency situation is unique.  Decisions made to open, close, or delay services will be made collectively by administrators on the advice of various authorities including key library supervisors and staff.  These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis according to the best available information at the time.

CONTACT LISTS:

All departments are encouraged to have weather/emergency contact lists for their full-time and part-time employees. Individual unit supervisors are encouraged to prepare unit-level contact lists as well.

OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION:

For further information regarding handling absence and pay issues associated with weather-related emergencies see Human Resources Guideline No. 10, Handling "Weather Day" Absences or Official University Closedowns Due to Weather Conditions.  The provisions outlined in this guideline apply to all full-time employees and those part-time employees who meet the criteria for earned time (see the Paid Time Off section of Human Resources Policy No. 41, Setting Hourly Wage Payroll Rates for Part-Time and Casual Employees).

MINIMUM STAFFING:*

Minimum staffing levels for the branch libraries will be determined by each branch in consultation with the Head of Reference, Collections, and Research.

For Pattee/Paterno, the requirement will be a minimum of four staff capable of opening the complex and providing minimal but adequate service.

For campus libraries, minimum staffing levels will be determined by the head librarian in conjunction with the campus chancellor and the Senior Associate Dean.  In any given weather emergency, local conditions often will determine staff availability. 


Effective Date: January 19, 2006
Date Approved: January 19, 2006 (Dean/Department Heads)

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • December 4, 2014 – Updated to include new emergency alert sytem, PSUAlert
  • November 13, 2009 – Editorial; Revised for applicability to libraries at all locations
  • August 2007 – Editorial
  • October 9, 2006 – Editorial revisions and addition of PSUTXT information
  • January 19, 2006 – Revised to reflect those exceptional circumstances when the Libraries' administration decides to open the Libraries despite a University announced closing
  • November 15, 2004 – New guideline

Last Review Date:  November 2009