512 Inclement Weather / Emergency Closing Procedures

Authority to Close the University

The authority and responsibility for closing, in whole or in part, the University due to a condition or situation where, upon assessment or review, such closure is warranted, rests with the President or designate. In the event the President or designate cannot be reached, the responsibility for closing the University shall rest with the next reachable officer in the following sequence:

•    Provost and Vice-President (Academic)
•    Vice-President (Finance and Operations)
•    Associate Vice-President (Academic)
•    Vice-Provost (Student Affairs)
•    Director, or Designate Campus Safety Office (CSO)

Although these procedures have been developed primarily for closings as a result of inclement weather conditions, these procedures will also be followed in the event of any other conditions or situations that require the closing or evacuation of the University.

While every effort will be made to conduct thorough consultations before a closing decision is made, some consultations included in this policy may not occur in the interest of a speedy and efficient decision for public safety.

When meteorological information indicates the potential for inclement weather, the Director, Campus Safety Office will contact the Registrar and the Vice-Provost (Student Affairs) to both inform them of the impending weather and to determine if there are any key campus activities that could be affected should a closure occur. This information will be provided by the Director, Campus Safety Office to the Vice-President (Finance and Operations) during the decision-making consultative process.

Whenever possible, if a decision is to be made about closing[1] every effort will be made to render a judgment on the matter by 5:30 a.m. to allow for public communication. If the University must close during normal business hours, every effort will be made to communicate the decision so as to provide a minimum one-hour lead time to ensure the orderly curtailment of operations.

With the exception of those essential or required services listed in Appendix I, the closing will be final and not left to the discretion of individuals or departments unless special arrangements are made with the President or designate and the University of Guelph Campus Safety Office. Only those employees who have been informed in advance by their supervisors that they provide essential or required services for the purposes of this policy are expected to report to the workplace.

To the extent feasible, employees who have not been designated as either essential or required to be on campus are asked to operate under a remote work/work from home arrangement to perform their normal work responsibilities during the period of closure for inclement weather.

The President (for operations reporting directly to the Office of the President) and each Vice-President will be responsible for ensuring the preparation of communication procedures (e.g. telephone contact trees, mass email distribution lists, group text messaging, etc.) that can be utilized in emergency closing situations to communicate department-specific decisions concerning the closure or curtailment of normal University operations. Notification to the University community and general external community (e.g. media) will be managed by Communications and Public Affairs and the Campus Safety Office (for U of G Alert messages). The development of communication procedures should incorporate, as appropriate, the need to contact non-University operations located on campus (e.g. external retail and professional service providers located in the University Centre), student and employee organizations with their own staff, and volunteers (e.g. Campus Safe Walk, First Response Team). Each Vice-President will be responsible for ensuring these communication procedures are current and activated appropriately when this policy is implemented.

In all cases where this policy identifies a particular University administrator, this will apply to the administrator or designate at the time the policy is being implemented.

Section A - Steps Leading to a Decision Concerning Closure of Guelph Campus

1. The on-duty Campus Community Police Sergeant or a Special Constable will monitor:

•    Road, parking lot and sidewalk conditions in consultation with the Grounds Manager or designate
•    The weather forecast through the University website weather link
•    City schools and post-secondary institutions, other organization closures, radio broadcast road conditions and closures with a focus on Highway 6, 7, and 401 through the MTO website www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/traveller/conditions/southwestern.html [1]
•    Guelph Transit operational status as communicated to the Campus Safety Office Dispatch.
•    Environment Canada website https://weather.gc.ca/forecast/hourly/on-5_metric_e.html 

If the above information indicates that conditions are such that closure should be considered, the Sergeant or a Special Constable will contact the Director, Campus Safety Office or designate by 4:15 a.m. with advice regarding the curtailment of University operations due to inclement weather conditions or other emergency conditions.

2.  The Director, Campus Safety Office or designate will then contact the AVP, Physical Resources or designate with a preliminary assessment of inclement weather conditions. The Director, Campus Safety Office and the AVP, Physical Resources will consult with relevant contacts to the extent possible given the time of day and particular circumstances to gather additional information for assessment purposes, including:

 (a) weather and road conditions from sources including:

•    Canadian Automobile Association (CAA)
•    Environment Canada
•    Guelph City Police
•    Ministry of Transportation
•    Ontario Provincial Police
•    Guelph Transit Commission

(b) operational status, i.e. open or closed, of school boards within the City of Guelph including:

•    Upper Grand District School Board
•    Wellington Catholic District School Board; and

(c) operational status, i.e. open or closed, of other post-secondary educational institutions within the vicinity of the University including:

•    Conestoga College (Guelph Campus)
•    University of Waterloo
•    Wilfrid Laurier University
•    McMaster University

After consulting with the AVP, Physical Resources, and if closure is being recommended, the Director, Campus Safety Office will contact and advise the Vice-President (Finance and Operations) by 5:00 a.m. The Vice-President (Finance and Operations) will be responsible for advising the President of inclement weather conditions by 5:15 a.m. The President or designate or, if the President or designate cannot be reached, the next reachable officer will decide to remain open or to close the University.

3. If the President decides to close the University, the decision will include, when possible, an indication of when the University expects to reopen. The President will inform the Vice-President (Finance and Operations) of the decision. The Vice-President (Finance and Operations) will, in turn, advise the AVP, Physical Resources, and the Director, Integrated Communications and the Director, Marketing and Digital Engagement, and each of the Vice- Presidents.

In the case of a decision to close the University it is also the President's decision, based on input and/or consultation with the appropriate Vice- President, whether select University operations may be permitted to remain open under special arrangements. This decision shall be communicated to affected operations and to the Campus Safety Office by the appropriate Vice-President.and each of the Vice- Presidents.

The Director, Integrated Communications or designate will initiate communications to the University and external communities concerning closure of the University and will serve as the official University spokesperson with media concerning the closure. The AVP, Physical Resources will advise the Director, Campus Safety Office, and they will proceed to work together on operational matters throughout the closure of the University. Each Vice-President will proceed to advise their operations of the closure decision and the specific effects on those operations using their communication procedures.

4. Once a decision is made to close the University, the Director, Integrated Communications and the Director, Marketing and Digital Engagement, are responsible for pursuing the following in a timely manner as best as can be done in the circumstances, and consistent with the provisions of this policy:

1.    Post the closure message in an article on the University News page
2.    Send notification through U of G Alert (process managed by the Campus Safety Office), which will automatically post the closure notice on the uoguelph.ca homepage. Communications and Public Affairs will edit the alert notice on the homepage to link to the article on the University News page
3.    Communicate the closure through social media and link to the article posted on the News page (allows for a single-source of correct and up- to-date information)
4.    Ensure that the main University telephone switchboard greeting is changed
5.    Contact local radio and television stations

The homepage alert, social media, switchboard message, digital signs and other communication vehicles will advise students, faculty and staff to monitor the University News page and social media for updates.

The Director, Integrated Communications, and the Director, Marketing and Digital Engagement, will ensure that the home page, social media, switchboard, and other closure messages are updated as required. The Director, Integrated Communications and Internal Communications Manager will also be responsible for checking the Campus Events calendar to determine what in-person events are planned that may be affected and communicating the closing decision where possible.

5. Steps Taken, if possible, In Advance of Inclement Weather

When there is appropriate lead time and circumstances warrant, consideration will be given to issuing an advisory on the University News page and sharing on social media a "weather watch" (or other emergency situation) that is being monitored for impact on the University's normal operations. The Vice- President (Finance and Operations) will work with the Director, Integrated 
Communications to prepare and issue an appropriate message in these circumstances. (See Appendix II for sample messages.)

When a weather watch or other emergency condition develops during regular business hours, the Director, Integrated Communications or designate will endeavor to inform organizers of any in-person events listed on the Campus Events calendar and Gryph Life Calendar if a decision to close the University appears likely. As time permits, the Director, Integrated Communications will consult organizers about any communication considerations that should be addressed for a postponed or cancelled event.

Section B - Closure of U of G Operations Outside of Guelph

Since weather conditions may vary across the province, the President normally delegates responsibility to the Dean, Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), and the Vice-President (Research) respectively for ensuring that the regional campuses of OAC at Ridgetown (including affiliated research Stations at Cedar Springs and Huron) and the Research Stations outside Guelph have similar emergency closing procedures in place.

For Research Stations managed from Guelph (Woodstock, Arkell, Ponsonby, Elora, Alma, Simcoe Bradford, Winchester, New Liskeard and Emo), the Director, Research Facilities Management in consultation with the local unit managers, will advise the Vice-President (Research) regarding inclement weather conditions, including roads being closed by the OPP or other authority, or other emergency conditions that affect the operation of the Research Stations. Measures being taken to care for the livestock, as well as for the provision of other essential services at the Research Stations, will be reported to the Vice-President (Research). The Director will relay any instructions from the Vice-President (Research) to the appropriate Unit Managers.

Similarly, the  President normally delegates to the Vice- Provost for the University of Guelph-Humber (U of G-H) responsibility to ensure that the U of G-H have similar emergency closing procedures in place.

In all cases, the Dean (OAC)/Vice-President (Research)/ Vice-Provost for the University of Guelph-Humber (U of G-H) will inform the President whether a closing decision has been made in some or all these areas. If a decision has been made to close, the Dean (OAC)/Vice-President (Research)/ Vice- Provost for the University of Guelph-Humber (U of G-H) will also inform the Director, Integrated Communications of the decision and determine whether any related communications are needed.

Section C – Reopening of the University following a closure

To address questions from the community, an update will be made to the closure notice News posting indicating the University’s reopening date and time.

A U of G Alert will not be sent to notify the community that the University has reopened.

Appendix I – Essential or Required Services

Essential or required services normally remain operational during a closure of the University. For clarity, in the event it becomes necessary to curtail or suspend a required service, the dean or vice-president who oversees the required service will be contacted directly.

The following departments/units that have been identified as providing either essential or required services:

•    Laboratory Services Division
•    Off-Campus Research Stations
•    Physical Resources
•    Student Health Services
•    Student Housing Services
•    Hospitality Services
•    Computing & Communication Services
•    Ontario Veterinary College/ Health Sciences Centre
•    Campus Safety Office
•    Animal care facilities, including Central Animal Facility and others on the Guelph campus, plus animal care at field stations

The AVPs or Directors of the above essential or required services are responsible for: identifying the levels of service and staffing required to continue operations during a closure; and for ensuring continuing operations during a closure.

Employees designated to provide these essential or required services should be informed by their supervisors. Not every employee in a unit will normally be designated as providing essential or required services. When time permits, a reminder should be provided to these employees when a weather watch is in effect. Only those employees designated by their supervisors as providing these essential or required services for the purposes of this policy are expected to report to work in case of a closure of the University.

Please view this link for the service plan related to snow or severe weather potential reduced service 

Updated: November 22, 2021


[1] It is recognized that there are areas that will continue to operate (e.g., OVCHSC, SHS, PR, CSO) and staff required to attend campus due to the essential or required nature of their roles.  It is in this context, “closing” or “closure” is used.