With a blizzard in the forecast for the Omaha metro area, major businesses are weighing their options for Tuesday.
Some are suggesting their employees work from home Tuesday; others are booking hotel rooms near their offices for critical employees to be able to report to work.
"Our buildings will remain open tomorrow, but if the storm materializes as forecasted and road conditions are hazardous, we are discouraging travel to the office for area employees," said Kim Hillyer, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based TD Ameritrade, which employs about 2,000 people in the metro area administrating the headquarters affairs of the largest online stock brokerage.
Hillyer said the company implemented harsh weather plans about a week ago in its east coast operations after a strong snow storm nailed the area. A large company, TD Ameritrade has multiple operations centers across the nation to ensure trading, accounting and everything else goes on uninterrupted. Hillyer said Omaha-area employees who can work from home will do so if commuting becomes dangerous.
West Corp., the largest conference call provider, has about 1,200 employees in its headquarters city of Omaha, spokesman Dave Pleiss said. Pleiss said the company plans to have people work from home or to transfer assignments to other parts of the country unaffected by the severe weather.
"Our managers will make sure that our clients and projects are covered," Pleiss said.
[ Closings list: Omaha-area businesses and school closings and event cancellations ]
At Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad, employer of 8,000 Nebraskans, departmental leaders Monday afternoon were determining which employees may not be required to report to work as the storm approaches, said spokeswoman Calli Hite.
"This may include recommendations for employees to telecommute when possible," Hite said. "As always, U.P. encourages employees to take their personal safety into consideration."
Hite said U.P. was also planning to find hotel rooms for downtown employees, such as locomotive managers and train dispatchers responsible for managing the flow of trains across the company's 32,000-mile rail network.
Severe snowstorms are a hassle for most, but doubly so for Union Pacific, the nation's second-largest freight railroad, which has to take into account a wide variety of safety, equipment, personnel and customer-service factors. Hite said the company has activated winter weather command centers in Council Bluffs and North Platte.
"These centers house command coordinators and are staging areas for winter weather equipment," Hite said.
ConAgra Foods officials haven’t told employees to stay home Tuesday — yet.
"We haven’t made a call on this yet, but we’re continuing to monitor it and we’ll do whatever is best for the safety of our employees," spokesman Chris Kircher said Monday morning. "It’s tricky with the weather. You never know what it’s going to do, but this has been on the radar screens for a while."
The company will take the lead from City of Omaha officials if streets become impassable, Kircher said.
"We’ve already notified employees and let them know that these conditions are coming," he said. "At this point, we’re making sure that whatever we do is the safe thing to do. We’re just monitoring the situation. ... If it gets to the point where they’re saying you shouldn’t be out, we’ll have to make a decision."
In such cases, Kircher said, the company communicates with employees mostly by email, the quickest way to tell people if offices will be closed.
"It’s a little bit early to make the final call, but obviously those options are out there," he said.
"We’ll continue to watch this like everyone else and try to do what’s right as far as the city’s concerned and more importantly whatever’s the safest for our employees."
Ethanol producer Green Plains Inc. has an inclement weather policy, but conditions generally don’t stop business at the home office in the Regency area, said Sasha Forsen, spokeswoman for the Omaha-based employer of about 160 people in the metro area.
"Our office will be open," Forsen said. "However employee safety, above all, is the most important factor in determining the decision to come into the office."
Forsen said employees will be expected to work with their supervisors to determine the best course of action as the storm bears down. Green Plains has administrative and back-office jobs in Omaha that support a string of ethanol plants across the region, and a trading floor handling a wide variety of ethanol-related commodities.