Though last year the city saw an unusually mild winter and snow has been scarce this season, the city of Boston gets 40 inches of snow per year on average, so FM&P staff has had snow on their minds since the summer.
FM&P is responsible for handling snow and ice problems as they occur on campus. This includes the snow plowing, shoveling, and salting of on-campus roads, alleyways, sidewalks, stairways, and each of the University’s 11 uncovered parking lots. FM&P usually handles about 23 “snow events” per year which range from a small icing to several inches of snow accumulation. This winter there have been 14 events so far.
“No two storms are alike,” said Trucking Manager Bob O’Toole, adding “You could have the same amount of snow, but 6 a.m. Monday morning is different than 6 p.m on a Saturday.”
O’Toole and the rest of the FM&P staff must make sure that the campus is ready in under any circumstance. Making sure a campus that stretches over a mile and serves over 40,000 people is prepared for winter conditions is no small feat, especially with the often unpredictable weather in New England.
To ensure everything is ready no matter when the first storm hits, FM&P starts preparing in August, tuning up and making any necessary repairs to equipment. The arsenal of machines to be tuned up includes over 100 snow blowers and snow brushes, 6 sidewalk machines, 2 sanders and 16 plows. Much of the equipment serves multiple purposes, like being able to both plow or move and dump snow, which makes it easier to maintain the diverse facilities on campus. The trucking staff also handles equipment breakdowns and transports equipment for repair to ensure that the fleet is always prepared for any event. These machines are operated throughout the three shifts by members of the custodial staff of over 400 people. The preparation process also involves checking the inventory so they that the necessary amount of snow melt, shovels, and especially gasoline, needed to power the equipment, can be ordered. Despite the mild winter last year, FM&P went through an estimated 2,400 pounds of ice melt and 25 tons of salt.
In addition, 20 grounds workers, 7 truckers and 2 mechanics also work to clean up the campus. FM&P also employs a contractor to clean parking lots and certain buildings which allows the University to have another potential 150 employees at their disposal in the event of a major storm. Once snow is cleared from sidewalks and roads, it is brought to either a snow dump or snow melter to be disposed of. In addition, other FM&P staff members are constantly on hand to prevent other snow related issues such as leaking roofs or frozen pipes.
“Our job is to make sure the campus is open and safe for faculty staff and students,” said FM&P.
In order to do so, FM&P maintains constant coverage during storms with some staff reporting early and others staying late. Maintaining a safe environment is especially important since BU student, faculty, and staff hail from all over the globe and many may not be as used to snow as New England natives.
Regardless of safety hazards, snow removal is also important for the day to day operation of such a large University. The staff must ensure that deliveries can be made to dining halls, residence buildings, and departments campus-wide as well as providing access for emergency vehicles. The effort of the FM&P staff during these events is integral part to allowing the University to maintain its core functions of academics and research.