As the East Coast braces for blizzard-like conditions, some may grumble about weather-related closings of schools, workplaces and government offices. They may look at the weather reports and think it is all much ado about nothing. While that may be true in some areas, Pinar Keskinocak and Julie Swann, co-directors of Georgia Tech's Health & Humanitarian Logistics Center, say leaders must make decisions about closings and preparations early -- even when there is still uncertainty about weather conditions.
Weather is hard to forecast. Suppose there is a 25 percent chance that the weather in your city will lead to ice on the roads during the commute home from work or bus ride home from school. In addition to the unsafe conditions, think about the congestion that will occur as parents rush to schools to pick up children early and everyone rushes to get home before the dark and the ice get worse.
It just doesn’t work to wait until the weather is here to make the decision. Companies, schools, and governments must make decisions in advance, while there is still uncertainty in what is going to happen.
When decisions to close are made organizations are balancing the chance something will occur and the implications if it does, with the chance something will not occur and the costs if the closures were made. In some cases, the implications if there is bad weather outweigh the costs of closing if there is not. Even if there's a relatively small chance of bad weather it can make sense to close.
So yeah, you might be right that the closures aren’t needed. But in case they are needed, won’t you be glad not to be on the roads in Snowmageddon 2016?
Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering