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Planning ahead for winter weather, notifications

November 20, 2020
Rush Rhees Library in the snowUniversity of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Winter is almost upon us here in Rochester and the University’s emergency preparedness teams are ready with the plans and tools that keep the University operational and community members informed during snowstorms or severe weather.

Obviously, this year is a little different with some students and staff continuing to study and work remotely following the shortened residential fall semester. Because of this, one change to the University’s “snow day” plan is that if any University operations, including those at the Medical Center, are curtailed due to extreme winter weather conditions, employees who currently work remotely should continue to do so that day.

It’s usually only under extreme weather conditions that University officials may decide to reduce or delay on-campus operations and cancel activities, provided that essential services will be maintained. The University is very good at dealing with snow and in general remains in operation and continues with regular activities, classes, and services despite excessive accumulation or a winter storm.

Here are the key points to remember about staying informed during a Rochester winter:

  • However infrequent, the decision to cancel classes and not open campus offices and departments will normally be made by 5:30 a.m. on the day of the potentially severe weather. University experts analyze winter forecasts and conditions overnight and throughout the day looking at the severity of current conditions and predictions; expected duration of a storm; road conditions, both on campus and in the region; and how quickly snow can be cleared from University sidewalks and parking lots.
  • When a change to University operations is necessary due to the weather, AlertUR, the University’s official emergency notification system, is used to make the first notice. AlertUR sends urgent messages via text, phone call, and email. To receive AlertUR messages, University community members must keep their AlertUR phone and email settings current. Students, faculty, and staff can use their NetID to update their settings at any time at
  • All essential University staff members are still expected to report to work unless otherwise notified by a supervisor—employees should confirm with their supervisor whether their status is essential or non-essential status. All Medical Center employees–whether at Elmwood Avenue or any off-site location–are considered essential staff and are required to report even during severe weather, unless notified otherwise. If you are an employee who currently works remotely, you should continue to do so that day unless otherwise instructed by your manager.
  • University Facilities works around the clock to ensure that the University is accessible and safe in the event of a big snow event. However, if an individual feels it’s unsafe to travel to campus, they should notify their professors or supervisor to work out the necessary arrangements for their absence or delay.
  • The Office of University Communications is responsible for delivering announcements to students, faculty, and staff as soon as a change to regular University operations is known. In addition to AlertUR, official weather news channels include:
    • University email
    • University
    • Twitter: @UofR
    • Local TV and radio news stations
    • University Information Line: (585)275-6111.
    • URMobile: the University’s official mobile app (download it free at, or by searching “URMobile” in your phone’s app store. To allow push notifications through the URMobile app, on the app go to About/Preferences and then Notification Settings.)
    • Blackboard: Students should check Blackboard for individual class cancellations as determined by an instructor.


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Category: University News

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