5(ish) Questions with Burke Gulbranson

A clear path that has had the snow shoveled off of it with bright blue sky.

December 6, 2022 - 2:30pm

Snowy conditions have brought an early-season dose of winter to Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia. This means VIU’s snow removal crews have already had their share of starts in the middle of the night to clear the snow and ice from our campuses. We asked Burke Gulbranson, Director of Facilities Services, who is in charge of snow and ice removal to answer our questions about the process so we could get a sense of what the crews are dealing with and how decisions are made.  


1)      What time do snow removal employees get up to start their job? How long does a shift normally last?

Burke Gulbranson: Generally, 2 to 3 am, typically a snow shift will last a full 7 hours. Most of our team members will work for a few hours afterward to deal with other pressing other items related to their regular duties.


2)      How many stairs/floors do they typically end up clearing?

BG: Sorry, I don’t have this information, but it is a lot! We are responsible for the entire Nanaimo campus.


3)      Ideally, how many employees are involved?  

BG: Ideally the more the better, we have had a difficult time attracting people to sign up for snow removal activities. A good turnout is 20+ people, but this rarely occurs. 


4)      How does Facilities prioritize where they clear and in what order?

BG: We have designated areas that receive priority attention. Typically, areas where the most activity on campus occurs such as the quad area (between the library and cafeteria), RBC Plaza, emergency access roadways, and the bus loop. Snow captains, with the support of administrative team members, direct crews throughout the process.


5)      What’s the hardest part of the Nanaimo campus to clear?

BG: The stairs, for sure, are the hardest part as they all have to be done by hand shoveling.


6)      What influences the decision to close campus vs keeping it open?

BG: A number of factors are considered – weather forecasts, road conditions, crew turn out, consultation with our partners BC Transit and School District 68. We never want to close campus, but the safety of our community members is our first priority. This is why we have to careful about communicating when campus will reopen as well. We have to have full confidence that all of our community members can safely navigate campus after a closure. The safety of our crew is also very important, which includes exhaustion from the difficult work and early hours. 

7)      How can community members show their appreciation for this hard work?

BG: Understanding that we do the best we can with limited resources. We are keen to keep the site as safe and clear of snow and ice as possible.

Tags: 5 Questions

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email