For Stony Brook University’s Office of Emergency Management, the primary concern during last week’s snowstorm, and for any storm, is roadway and walkway safety, as well as coordinating with campus food service locations to provide ample time and places for resident students to get food, Lawerence Zacarese, director for University Police Office of Emergency Management and assistant chief of police, wrote in an email.

“These things are directly related to our ability to direct snow removal contractors to the proper areas, roadways, etc,” Zacarese said. “Staying ahead of the storm, pretreating roadways and ensuring enough equipment/resources are in place are all crucial to this process.”

Emergency Management monitors multiple forecasts from news sources and meteorologists, but primarily works with other emergency managers from around the state, along with a “dedicated group of forecasters from the National Weather service,” Zacarese said. This provides predictions specific to the region, with briefings and conference calls before and during severe weather events, including hurricanes and tropical storms in the summer.

To monitor preparations for future storms, Emergency Management has what Zacarese called a “state of the art” Emergency Operations Center, which opened three months ago. The center included a staff of 15 to 20 employees at the height of the storm, according to a university press release.

The center’s staff is trained to evaluate and respond to emergency situations using the Incident Command System, which according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is an on-scene incident management concept “designed specifically to allow responders to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of any single incident or multiple incidents without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.”

Emergency Management collaborates with facilities and residences for snow removal efforts as well as Environmental Health and Safety, C-CERT, SBVAC and external partners in the fire departments, Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State counterparts, Zacarese said.

Besides emergency alerts received through SB Alert, Emergency Management sends out weather and emergency updates with its Twitter account, but sometimes takes on an informal tone with emojis, photos, hashtags such as #frozenseawolves and remarks such as, “Whats next during this #blizzard ??” during a blackout that affected dorm buildings while the winter storm
was ongoing.

“I think levity is an important part of emergency management and keeping a sense of humor, particularly after being awake for 30 or 40 hours helps keep us sane,” wrote Zacarese, who handles the account with his assistant, Jason Casale. “I also think that it’s important to instill calm and provide a sense of reassurance. I think the humor and lightheartedness does that as well as connect to the 18-24 year old demographic of our students, even if some of my hashtags are lame or corny from time to time. #Itryhardnottobelame.”