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Vol. LXII, No. 6
March 19, 2010
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Coping with Copious Snow
Staff Keep NIH Functioning, Even When Government Is Closed

Francis Seymer, an employee of the Office of Research Facilities, removes a fallen tree blocking a fire door at the Children’s Inn.
Francis Seymer, an employee of the Office of Research Facilities, removes a fallen tree blocking a fire door at the Children’s Inn.

The extra work it took to keep NIH functioning during February’s snowfalls did not go unnoticed. “I commend all of the NIH employees whose dedication and commitment to the NIH mission enabled us to continue to operate,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “From working extended hours to shoveling mounds of snow, these individuals provided critical services during the days when the federal government was closed [Feb. 8-10].

“There was no break in the outstanding care provided to patients by our Clinical Center employees,” Collins continued. “Many Clinical Center staff worked additional hours and stayed overnight to meet all patients’ needs, ensuring that our patients continued to receive outstanding care. Their dedication is greatly admired by all of us at NIH.”

Office of Research Facilities employees and contractors worked around the clock during the storms to ensure that NIH buildings and grounds were safeguarded. The CC provided food vouchers and rooms to sleep in for ORF staff.

Prior to the storms, ORF and its contractors had a plan. They were prepared for snow removal, salting/sanding of walkways and roads, equipment failures at gates and utility sites, power outages, co-generation plant monitoring and more. Many were ready to remain on campus throughout the bad weather.

ORF had approximately 135 federal employees and 100 contractors who remained on site during the Feb. 5-6 storm, sleeping on cots and working around the clock. Snow removal was by far the most visible activity. Clear roads were crucial to ensure trucks could deliver supplies and fuel. Another critical job was keeping the central utility plants functioning at Bethesda, Poolesville and Baltimore. Providing steam to the buildings was essential to protect not only the patients in the Clinical Center, but also the numerous animals housed on campus, many of which have been bred over generations to study the effects of aging. Other employees monitored all buildings to be sure that air-handling units clogged with snow were restored to full capacity.

ORF contract employees from Diversified Services Group help clear the Lincoln Dr. entrance near Old Georgetown Rd.
ORF contract employees from Diversified Services Group help clear the Lincoln Dr. entrance near Old Georgetown Rd.

Normally, on weekends, ORF’s Donna Phillips resides with her 76-year-old mother in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Instead, she stayed on the Bethesda campus once the storm began. She made sure her mom was prepared to be alone, ensuring that she had an ample supply of medications and showing her how to use the snow blower to give their dogs a place to run.

Shift supervisor Leroy Proctor, who lives in Indian Head, Md., is responsible for maintaining campus operations during off hours. During the storms, he ventured home once during an 8-hour period when his home lost power and his wife became ill. He returned in time to start his next shift.

Proctor ended up lodging his wife at a hotel while he pulled double shifts at NIH. After the storms, he learned that the weight of the snow on his carport was collapsing the structure. Still, he remained at NIH until the situation on campus was stable.

Phillips, Proctor and other employees were dedicated to assuring that the mission of NIH was sustained, even when personal obligations weighed heavily on them. NIHRecord Icon

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