Winter Safety Tips

New Severe Weather Notifications

SUU’s Campus Operations Team has created a scoring system to help assess weather conditions and guide campus responses to winter storms. Campus responses will fall into one of the following categories.

 Winter Conditions Closure Chart

Text Version of Winter Conditions Chart
Green: Yellow: Yellow: Orange: Red:
Continue Normal Operations Delayed Start Early Out Full Day Remote Snow Day
Campus is Open Soft Campus Closure Soft Campus Closure Soft Campus Closure Campus Closed Essential Functions Only
Outdoor Conditions are seasonably normal Due to timing, severity, and/or duration of the storm - Expected to improve in the next 4 hours Due to timing, severity, and/or duration of the storm - NOT Expected to improve in the next 4 hours Due to timing, severity, and/or duration of the storm - Expected to improve in the next 12 hours Due to timing, severity, and/or duration of the storm - Reduce campus activities to essential functions

Some of the criteria SUU’s Campus Operations Team looks at when scoring a storm include:

  • The severity and timing (arrival) of the weather event as issued by the National Weather Service
  • Forecasted temperature (if expected to stay well below freezing)
  • Latest information obtained from local law enforcement and street departments about road conditions (low visibility, icy roads, blowing snow, snowpack, etc.)
  • SUU Facilities Management’s assessment includes: the ability to clear parking lots, walkways, ADA access, and stairways before the start of normal campus operations; tree damage or hazards; and expected visibility for clearing snow when students/staff/faculty are on campus
  • Scheduled major events i.e. athletic events, concerts, tenant, and contractor operations
  • Consultation with the Iron County School District, Southwest Tech, and the Iron County Emergency Manager

This scoring system is a predictive process in an effort to help the campus community be safe and provide a framework for better communication. However, all community members must come prepared to handle low temperatures, low visibility, and slick conditions even when SUU remains open for normal operations. This page includes tips on what to wear, how to plan ahead, and even what to do when traversing snow and ice to get to class or work.

The winter season brings a new set of challenges for students and staff. Being prepared and knowing the risks are essential in staying safe during the winter seasons. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a total of 20,460 ice, sleet, and snow-related work injuries. Utah had an average of 3.6 incidents per 10,000 workers. With Utah having some of the highest incident rates it's important to follow the tips and tricks provided below. Winter hazards don't stop after you enter your vehicle though. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, in a recent year, a total of 8,222 crashes happened during the holiday season. A large majority of these crashes occurred to drivers in the age range of 13-24. Southern Utah University is dedicated to making coming from and going to campus as safe as possible for our students and staff.

Preparation Tips

Walking on ice and snow can be challenging. Snow and icy conditions accounts for many slips and falls during inclement weather. There are ways to stay injury free and ensure safety by noting the following safety tips:

Planning ahead can be one of the greatest ways to prevent injuries and avoid other incidents. Here are a few things to plan ahead for:

  • Giving yourself plenty of time to walk slowly using a penguin like walk in snow and ice. Spreading your feet out slightly while walking on ice increases your center of gravity.
  • Leave your living quarters wearing proper footwear. A heavy treaded shoe with a flat bottom works best to grip the snow and ice and prevent slipping. (In addition, wear closed toe shoes to prevent foot injury.)
  • Take time to be alert while walking on ice and snow. And always keep an eye out for black ice. Black ice can be deceiving as it is common to mistake it for a wet surface.
  • Be a defensive pedestrian. With winter conditions drivers can’t always see you and road conditions may not provide them time enough to stop quickly and safely. Make sure drivers have come to a complete stop before crossing the street. Always stay on designated walkways. Also wearing a bright coat or scarf to be easily seen can help both during the day and at night.
  • If you’re walking on or around campus during the day come prepared with sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses helps prevent eye damage from the suns reflection on the snow.

In addition to planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time:

  • Make use of handrails on stairs, outdoor walkways, and vehicles.
  • Remove snow or mud from your shoes before entering any building. And enter buildings cautiously. Your shoes may be wet and can cause you (or others) to slip or fall.
  • Know your limitations. Carrying large packages or other items that limit vision can lead to slips and trips.

Keep in mind that at times even taking the necessary precautions may not be enough and a fall could be inevitable. If you fall, relax and try to fall as limply as possible. Try to avoid landing on your knees, wrists, or spine. Try to fall on a fleshy part of your body, such as your side. Avoid using your arms to stop your fall.

Making sure your vehicle is ready for winter is also an important step in making sure you get to class safely. Many of our students come from across the country, and in some cases have rarely dealt with winter weather on the roads. Here you can find some tips to prepare your vehicle for winter. For more information please visit the National Safety Council’s website on vehicle preparation.

  • Make sure you test your battery; cold weather tends to lower battery power and may leave you stranded in cold weather.
  •  Check your cooling system and make sure it's in good working order.
  • Have winter tires with a deeper, more flexible tread. Pay close attention to signs calling for tire chains if you're headed into the mountains.
  • If using all-season tires, check your tire tread and replace if it's less than 2/32 of an inch.
  • Check your tire pressure; as temperature drops, tire pressure does too. Generally, you lose about 1-2 PSI of tire pressure for every 50℉/10℃ drop.
  • Check your wiper blades, new wiper blades can help keep your windshield free of precipitation and a clear view.

 Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid freezing your gas lines.

Preparing your vehicle for the challenges of winter is only half the battle. Driving during winter conditions can prove to be a challenge even for the most seasoned drivers. According to the U.S. Department of transportation's Road Weather Management Program, each year 24 percent of weather related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually. In addition 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. With an annual snowfall of about 45 inches, the chances of having to drive in substandard snowy conditions is a high possibility. For more tips or information please visit the Utah Highway Patrol website. 

  • Slow down! People driving too fast in winter conditions is the main cause of crashes.
  • Drive under the speed limit: The posted limit is for dry, Ideal conditions.
  • Avoid quick stops, starts, and turns: Accelerate slowly, brake gently, and don’t turn quickly 
  • Increase your following distance: You need more distance to safely stop in winter weather. 
  • Use extra caution when changing lanes: Snow and slush can form ridges between lanes that can be really slippery and cause you to lose control. Avoid changing lanes if possible. 
  • Always buckle up: Crashes increase in bad weather, and seatbelts save lives. 
  • Coats Can interfere with car seat fit: Place coats or blankets around children once the harness is snug and secure. 
  • 4WD and AWD don't make you invincible: It helps you gain traction, but won't with stopping and turning. Don't be lured into a false sense of security. SLOW DOWN.
  • Watch for black ice: Black ice looks like a wet spot on the road and is extremely dangerous. Click here for information on driving on ice. 
  • Bridges freeze first: Approaching bridges should be taken with caution as ice develops on bridges first. 
  • Follow the snow plow: Roads behind an active snow plow are usually safer to drive on. 
  • If you skid, ease off the gas and turn into the skid. Click here for a how to video on exiting a skid. 
  • Snow left on your vehicle can be hazardous: If it hardens it can fly off your vehicle and cause damage. 
  • Don't use cruise control: In bad weather, road surfaces and conditions are constantly changing, using cruise control in these conditions can have disastrous effects.
  • Watch for deer: During storms deer may choose to move, adding another hazard to avoid.
  • Stay home: If you don't need to be on the roads it's better to stay in and enjoy the snow.

With more than 20 national parks and monuments within a 5 hour drive, SUU is perfectly situated for most adventurers. Most of these parks however, can suffer from extreme weather during the winter months. Keep in mind some parks may be closed either during the winter or during winter storms. Please check with the National parks service before planning a trip for road and park recreation closures . Below you can find some links to important information on preparing yourself for winter treks and excursions.