How FHSU Grounds prepares for cold weather on campus

BY JESSALYN KIRCHHOFF

As students return to campus for the 2023 Spring semester, there are a few things they should be aware of regarding the cold weather that continues to linger throughout the earlier months of the new year. The FHSU grounds staff have a number of steps to ensure the campus is a safer place during those freezing temperatures. 

Dean Dreiling and Trevor Deets are the Grounds Supervisors at Fort Hays. Dreiling has worked here for a total of 23 years, and Trevor has been here for six years. Both men are Hays area natives.

“We will start getting equipment switched over for the winter, usually mid to late October. To do this, we will bring all the blades and brooms for the skid steers back out from storage, put all the sand/ salt in the bens in the shop, put box blades on the back of tractors to clean, and make sure the ‘big snow blowers’ are ready to clear the streets,” Dreiling said. “We also make sure there is plenty of de-icer on hand. We order this stuff by the pallets. This is used for the sidewalks and we typically go through three or four pallets a winter, depending on how treacherous the winter is.” 

Deets adds to Dreiling’s statement with the next step in the overall process, which included watching the weather forecast “almost religiously.” 

“If there is a chance of snow or ice, we will call the Fort Hays Police Department (FHPD) and schedule people to be on-call if the streets become covered with snow or slick from ice,” Deets said. “After that, FHPD will make the call at 4:00 am and with that call, people will come in to start clearing the streets and de-icing the sidewalks. If it’s a big snow, we will all be in around 2:00 am and continue the process from there instead.”

Dreiling then states how important it is for staff and students that the Grounds Crew gets everything cleared on campus in a timely manner. 

“We try to get things cleaned up as quickly and quality as we can to prevent people from falling and/or having accidents because of course, we encourage students to go to class even if it is cold out,” Dreiling said. “We do our best to make the university as safe as we can for our students to continue their education, even when the weather disagrees.”

FHSU Chief of Police, Terry Pierce, said how important it is that specific campus staff keep the roads and sidewalks clear during the winter season. 

“It is crucial for the grounds crew, maintenance staff, residential life staff, and custodial staff to clear the snow and ice as well as apply ice melt to the roads and sidewalks around campus,” Pierce said. “Removal of snow/ice and application of ice melt makes the campus much safer for both drivers and pedestrians.”

Pierce goes on to explain what role the FHSU Police department plays in relation to protecting campus students and staff during wintry temperatures. 

“The University Police monitor weather and road conditions in order to make appropriate notifications to University personnel so that preparations can be made for snow/ice removal,” he said. “FHSU PD also prepares by making sure motorist assist equipment is prepped and ready to go in any occasion it is needed.”

Although Pierce is originally from the Kansas City area and is not FHSU alumni, he is quickly getting used to the Hays weather and the threats it imposes.

He encourages students to put in a sufficient amount of preparation for the upcoming semester.

“Prepare by making sure that you have adequate clothing for cold weather.” he Pierce said. “I recommend to dress in layers. I also recommend everyone to keep a phone with you while traveling in case you need roadside assistance and to always check local driving conditions on the Kansas Department of Transportation website.

More information on the FHSU Police Department and Grounds Crew can be found at their websites. 

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