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TJC addresses winter safety concerns

With the prospect of another freeze, students are asking what measures TJC is taking to address safety on campus

Last year’s winter storm in Texas set a record-breaking low temperature of -6 degrees in Tyler, along with a massive statewide power grid failure that affected the Tyler Junior College campus in addition to the surrounding area. In 2021, all TJC locations were closed from Feb. 15 through the 20. Classes were originally supposed to be remotely conducted, but widespread outages of electricity forced classes to become mostly canceled throughout the week. On Feb. 22, face-to-face classes returned to all locations. With supply shortages this year due to COVID-19 and temperatures already dropping below freezing, students need to know what considerations have been taken at TJC this season. 

Campus officials who oversee different departments such as campus police and maintenance spoke about their plans this winter. 

David Liner, director of safety and emergency management, assures students that campus departments are prepared for the freeze with their continuity of operations plans, which are procedures designed to help various departments continue to operate during emergencies. 

Q: Are there any plans to address another potential hard freeze and/or winter storm this year?

A: Key campus departments have completed continuity of operations plans.  Additionally, TJC’s strong campus response to COVID-19 issues has really aided in these planning efforts. This year we would like to remind students and staff to elevate electronic devices off of floors to minimize any water damage to equipment that might result from thawing pipes that might have ruptured during an extended freeze. These measures might also lower the risk of an electrical hazard.

Q:What were the most common mistakes students and staff made, and what can be done to see the number of those same mistakes decrease? 

A: Perhaps one of the most common issues involves students or staff using unapproved heat sources such as candles to generate heat.  A heat source such as an unattended candle or other sources could create a fire hazard or a carbon monoxide exposure risk. Items not made for microwave ovens or over-cooking items in microwave ovens are always a risk. 

Q:In your experience, what is the most life-threatening mistake an individual who isn’t familiar with adverse winter weather could make?

A: Again, unapproved ignition sources are always a concern. Slips and falls can be a risk due to surface conditions, ice for example.  Other issues include being aware of your surroundings. Falling snow, ice or other debris from rooftops can create a hazard as temperatures rise. Beware of potentially falling tree limbs during this time. If you suspect a natural gas leakage, contact TJC Police immediately.
Michael Seale, chief of police, explains how power outages may affect campus life.

Q: How much participation can TJC Campus Police expect to receive from other local first responder agencies during events such as these?

A: The TJC Police Department primarily handles calls for service during weather-related incidents. Assistance from other agencies will be on a case-by-case basis and based on the availability of the agency.   

Q: In the event of a power outage, where can a student go to seek shelter and warmth?

A:On-campus locations would be limited to the buildings not affected by the power outage and if those buildings could accommodate the students. In addition, the conditions on campus would play a role in students’ movement on or off-campus. Students’ movement would be coordinated between many departments to ensure any movement of students could be done safely. 

Mark Gartman, director of facilities and construction maintenance, shares information regarding infrastructure during winter weather. 

Q: What steps are maintenance officials taking to prepare for another winter storm?

A: Staff is prepared to mobilize if inclement weather arrives. All equipment on the underground hydronic loop is on our BAS (building automation system). This system will react to freezing temperatures and protect our equipment and buildings. As long as there is electricity (which is beyond our control) this system will function. Facilities and Construction have removed upward of 60 trees that were damaged beyond saving from last year’s storm. In addition, dead limbs have been removed from the remaining trees. These actions will help mitigate the impact of falling limbs and trees. Of course, high winds, large ice, and snow accumulations still pose a threat to tree limbs and other overhead objects. This will be addressed through notifications sent out accordingly.

Q: Taking into consideration last year’s snowstorm, are there any concerns maintenance has this season going into February? 

A: The electricity and water staying on.

Dana Ballard, director of campus services, discusses power outage preparations. 

Q: Are there any extra precautions that will be taken in order to address a possible power outage.

A: The main cafeteria in RSC has a back-up generator in the event of a possible power outage.   

As the weather gets colder, it is even more important to stay informed. 

Prepare for power outages by having at least one flashlight available, stocking up on extra batteries for items that may need them, an adequate supply of non-perishable items, and extra cases of water. To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation, make sure to keep areas well-ventilated and put extra batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they work properly. Check your prescribed medications and talk to your doctor if you’re running low to get your next batch early, if possible. Ensuring you have extra blankets and other well-insulated articles of clothing and bedding items available can go a long way in providing comfort while also keeping your core body temperature stabilized.

Although winter storms can be frightening, by taking the necessary steps to stay informed on your local weather and preparing in advance in the event of adverse weather, you are already doing what it takes to not become another statistic. 

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