A major blizzard has hit Chicago, but our 32,000 residents will still receive top care even if we are not open to the public. The blizzard may have forced us to close the aquarium for the day on Wednesday, which is mainly a safety precaution for our guests and our staff. Although most employees will get to take a snow day on Wednesday, the facilities staff, security staff, and animal care staff will still be working.

Although being closed is rare, Shedd has an extensive emergency response plan that has contingencies for everything from power outages to staff not being able to make it to work. We operate 24 hours each day and have staff here around the clock. The blizzard may prevent a few animal care staff from making it in, but most will still be here, preparing food, cleaning exhibits, and training just like any other day.

A few of the perks of the day might include not wearing a uniform and being able to do the job in jeans – although many staff will wear their full uniform just in the name of convenience, nobody wants to go home with a wet pair of jeans or with a shirt smelling of fish. Additionally, we will take advantage of the fresh snow fall and bring in buckets full of snow for the sea otters and penguins to play in. The snow can be a wonderful form of natural enrichment.

Another perk of the day is not being on a pre-determined schedule, we won’t have any public shows, chats or encounters for the day – that will allow us to do different types of training sessions. Training is such a critical part of our relationship with many of the animals, so training sessions will continue as will normal feedings.

One other change for the day will be a reduction in the amount of diving that we do. We have a great volunteer dive program, but we are giving volunteers the day off so they don’t have to make their way to the aquarium. Staff diving will take place only as needed.

Finally, the important life support systems that circulate water through each animals’ habitat and filters the water and cleans the systems will all be fully operational and the staff needed to make that run will be here. Staff is on standby to stay here over night if other staff cannot make it to work. At Shedd the care of our animals is always a top priority; so the harsh weather may change the activities going on in the public spaces but behind the scenes life goes on with only a few minor changes!

Posted by Ken Ramirez