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Worst snowstorm in 12 years hits midwest, administration rushes to handle power outages on campus

Herb Jones, of Security and Jeffery Powell of Physical Plant and their crew carrying out plans for resident's safety. Credit: Joel Nayder

By: Samantha Sanchez, Managing Editor

Feb. 1 and 2 brought the worst snowstorm in the Chicago area since 1999. Through Tuesday afternoon and early into Wednesday morning 20.2 inches of snow were dumped on the city, leading to abandoned cars on Lake Shore Drive, street-blocking snow drifts and power outages throughout Dominican University.

Starting on Monday Jan. 31 the school began receiving calls from worried students and parents asking about the school’s plans for the upcoming blizzard. Thankfully, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) had a protocol plan that made the coming days a little bit easier.

The damage control started with the IT department getting the word out about canceling classes and closing the university. The new and improved emergency notification system allows for students to receive emergency notifications by their preferred choice of delivery (i.e. text, email, Twitter and Facebook). Five hundred people are currently signed up for the emergency notification system. Those not enrolled checked their emails and the Dominican website for up-to-date information.

Jill Albin-Hill, chief information officer, says the first run of the system was successful, but she hopes more people sign up so they can be reached in case of another emergency.

“I’m happy with how it worked out,” Albin-Hill said. “It was a great first run of the system, and it will raise people’s awareness so that we can make it better for next time.”

On campus, conditions were handled by the Office of the Physical Plant. While other departments got a two-day break, many of the physical plant workers never even went home. They caught naps between plowing snow and trying to get the electricity and heat back on in Power Hall and Coughlin Hall. ComEd was backlogged and the two buildings did not have their own generator. As a result students living there had to make due.

The ERT put several plans into place concerning the well-being of students and sisters. Students received a boxed lunch on campus and were shuttled to the priory campus for a hot dinner. There were also plans in place to have students bunk up together in Centennial Hall, use lounges and/or be transported to the Priory. Thankfully, by Wednesday night physical plant had found a generator big enough to support the dorms and the electricity and heat were functioning and those measures did not have to be taken.

Dan Bulow, director of the Physical Plant, was in constant communication with other members of the ERT as well as ComEd during the storm. Despite the stress the storm caused, Bulow was proud of how his staff responded.

“It came out great,” Bulow said. “There are things that came out of it that we learned from, but the communication between our department, housekeeping, maintenance and Chartwells kept the campus working well and circulating.”

Members of the ERT weren’t the only ones who thought they did a good job; many students said they were impressed and grateful with how the situation was handled.

“I think people really banned together,” senior Jane Arvis said. “I was impressed with how the school tried to accommodate everyone through the dining services and sleep accommodations.”

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