The Blizzard of 1996 . . .
Extraordinary Response to an Extraordinary Event
On Monday, January 8, during the height of the Blizzard of 1996,
employees and staff arrived, ready to work, in a number of ways: on public
transit, with the help of friends, colleagues or family members who operate
four-wheel-drive cars, or on foot, walking through drifts nearly three feet
"My thanks goes out to all of you who pulled together to keep Jefferson
running during this unusually severe storm," said Thomas J. Lewis,
chief executive officer of the hospital.
"Many Jeffersonians, even those unscheduled for work during the storm,
volunteered to transport members of the nursing staff to Jefferson"
said Mary Ann McGinley, RN, MSN, associate executive director for patient
Other employees waited hours for public transportation in frigid weather
conditions. The National Guard helped some Jeffersonians who provide patient
care services get to work. Jefferson's patients were fed on time, tests
were completed, the laundry was clean and the buildings remained environmentally
and structurally sound.
Many employees stayed overnight at the hospital in order to work their shift,
although the need for double shifts did not occur, said Donna Ambrogi, RN,
nursing service. By Tuesday morning, most weekend workers and those who
put in long hours working multiple shifts were at home to rest thanks to
the arrival of relief staff.
Digging Out ­p; a gargantuan task
How do you keep Jefferson's campus and hospital entrances safe and clear
for patients and employees in the teeth of the biggest snowfall to hit Philadelphia?
"Not easily, and by a magnificent team effort," says Thomas F.
Creswell, regional manager, facilities services. He is "aka" in
his department as "Snowbird One" ­p; meaning the person we
turn to to "dig out" Jefferson, figuratively or literally, in
just such an emergency.
To dig us out from the blizzard's 30 inches of snowfall, Mr. Creswell relied
on 16 employees from facilities services and custodial services who teamed
up to work 16 straight hours at the height of the storm. The employees then
rotated in four-hour shifts for another 20 hours until the job was done
­p; a total of 1,200 labor hours.
To keep pavements, sidewalks and driveways clear, the team relied on seven
pieces of Jefferson equipment which were continually manned 36 straight
hours: five handheld sweepers, one tractor with a broom mechanism and one
pickup truck with a plow. Because the task was so big, a "Bobcat"
front-end loader had to be rented, mainly to dig and move snow into piles
throughout the University.
Mr. Creswell estimates the team put down six tons of calcium chloride by
hand or spreader to de-ice the campus.
"We got the job done because of a magnificent team effort by crews
from facilities services and custodial services pulling together."
Mr. Creswell singled out two facilities services supervisors for exemplary
effort during the emergency: John McMillian, who was in charge of the snow
detail, and James Wallace, who stayed well past his normal shift for the
duration of the storm.
Randy McLaughlin, acting director, custodial services, credited three custodial
services supervisors with "keeping our heads above water during all
this" ­p; Bill Boyce, Donald Burton and Todd Hubbard.
Keeping telephone lines and computer networks operating
Two critical means of communications ­p; telephones and computers ­p;
were kept operating because of "a handful of truly dedicated employees
who stayed, some as long as 48 straight hours, to make sure things kept
running in the telephone room and the computer and network operations center,"
said Al Giacomucci, acting director, information systems.
Storm threatens food supplies, Jeffersonians get through
Because deliveries could not be made, the hospital's department of nutrition
and dietetics began to run out of bread and milk. Saving the day for Jefferson
patients was Robert Kirk, driver/receiver, department of materiel management.
Mr. Kirk, who drives the food service delivery truck regularly servicing
the Ford Road Campus, generously volunteered for extra duty and made pick-ups
at the dairy and bakery. "Thanks to Robert Kirk adequate supplies of
bread and milk were on hand for patients' needs," said Richard C. Alberto,
assistant executive director for support services.
Meeting responsibility to student residents on campus
Staff at the three Jefferson student residences ­p; Martin, Orlowitz
and Barringer ­p; responded above and beyond the call of duty during
the blizzard and its aftermath, reports Barbara A. Schock, director of housing
and residence life.
"We are a 24-hour operation, and all 15 of our desk clerk staff members
performed beautifully as a team during this difficult time. Some worked
double shifts, and many slept over one, two or three nights wherever they
could ­p; in unassigned guest rooms, in the lobbies, some in student
rooms. The students were marvelous, too, pitching in to provide clothing
and food for the staff."
Cora Benson, desk clerk at Martin, slept over three nights in a row, when
a student, Seema Dutta, CGS '96, gave her accommodations in her room.
Another employee, Tony Pascale, desk clerk at Barringer, walked from his
Center City apartment at the height of the blizzard for his 3 to 11 p.m.
shift Sunday, despite the fact he has had multiple hip replacements. And
John Wilson III, manager of residence life, played an important role when
a fire broke out in a fourth floor Martin room on Monday night. In addition
to calming the students and a number of international guests, Mr. Wilson
and resident assistants Manoj Panday, JMC '98, and PT student Ed Schmauss,
CAHS/CGS '96, aided TJU's emergency response team with building evacuation,
in conformance with fire and safety procedures. A guest put out the blaze
while Philadelphia firefighters were making their way through the storm.
"Our entire staff made extraordinary efforts to cover all shifts. Everybody
put their dedication to the students ahead of their personal situations,"
Ms. Schock stressed.
Getting back to normal
Reflecting the exceptional commitment of our physicians and other healthcare
professionals who followed the University's weather emergency plan, hospital
services experienced no interruption during the storm. By Wednesday, January
10, just two days after the Blizzard of 1996 socked the east coast, it was
"all's quiet on the emergency front," according to Kenneth J.
Neuburger, MD, attending emergency medicine physician, at Jefferson's Emergency
Center. Wednesday also brought improved travel conditions to and from Jefferson
and predictions of yet another storm for Friday, January 12. It was a rough
week for most Jeffersonians, although we "weathered" it well.