Summer Snow Planning
Before you say, "It doesn't snow where I live" or “It’s the height of the summer season,” keep in mind that practically every location in the United States has seen snowfall and the date of the first snowfall varies. This extreme unpredictability of winter storms, coupled with the hazardous conditions caused by such weather, creates a necessity for advanced development of a thorough, detailed "Snow and Ice Control Plan,” which is essential for safety, efficiency and cost-effective exterior facility management. The summer is the ideal time to assess last year’s mistakes and plan for a successful snow and ice removal strategy that will save you and your company time, money and manpower in the winter months. Although snowy weather in the extreme south is unlikely, it’s still important that facility managers take the proper steps to prepare their properties for wintry weather and avoid emergency situations.
Here are my top six reasons for summer snow and ice control planning:
- Enables on site visits to identify property needs
- Secures the best contractors and equipment
- Reduces liability
- Avoidance of snow “emergencies”
- Secures the best value
- Lets time work in your favor
It’s extremely important to understand your site and the areas which may pose the greatest risk to your customers. The demands of a loading dock area versus an entrance walk may offer different challenges and require different materials and prioritization. Like a hospital staff, your Exterior Services Management® (ESM) company will conduct a site assessment that will triage the areas of your site and clearly define the priorities as it relates to a safe exterior. This on site evaluation will begin with the fundamentals of your facilities by reviewing basic site surveys and the location of sensitive exterior assets such as gas meters, hydrants and curb lines. These areas will require staking or marking to prevent damage, accidents and additional costs. Preparation, like in any endeavor, is the key to success. Snow and ice removal requires specific logistical preparation in the form of site surveys and site staking. Although these preparations may seem mundane, they will make the difference between a successful snow start-up and an unsuccessful one that can result in lost customers and possibly litigation.
If you are not using an ESM company, it’s important that you utilize a triage approach, prioritizing the areas of your site to ensure that safe conditions exist, and there is no detrimental affect to the flow of customers into your location. By color coding your site maps you can define areas of urgent attention and manage an emergency snow event with a concentration on your customer and the conduct of your business.
Personnel & Equipment
Whether it’s based on intensity, time of day, location or other variables, every storm is different. Unless your company is in the business of snow and ice removal, it’s rather difficult to layout and predetermine the manpower and equipment for an upcoming season. Contact your service provider during the summer months so they can logistically include your business in their service schedules, and have the adequate resources available to effectively serve your properties.
If you are still seeking a professional ESM provider, ask yourself the following questions during the selection process:
- What services do I require from my service provider?
- What should I look for in a winter services provider?
- Does the provider carry insurance?
- How long has the service provider been in business?
- Do they belong to a professional organization?
- Is the service provider able to give you comparable references?
- Does the service provider use contracts?
Snow and ice storms can be unpredictable, very hazardous and a source of serious accidents and lawsuits. To protect organizations from litigation, managers should create a written, strategic, well-developed and executed plan. In short, it’s the responsibility of grounds care managers to make sure all the bases are covered regarding snow and ice removal operations and liability. In the event a liability situation does arise, your snow and ice control plan can serve as a valuable defense tool that communicates the preventative steps taken to provide a safe environment for your employees and customers. You can also ensure your potential liability is minimized by:
- Ensuring that your risk management is solidly in place and adhered to by all
- Exceptions are not made to the language of your agreement or insurance requirements
- Making certain that all insurance certificates are correct and on file
- Building a realistic budget and do not ask your snow removal provider to cut corners. I often see a battle between controlling costs and assuring safety. Safety costs money, so set your standard and stand by it
- Keeping a bag of ice melt on hand that does not harm grass, plants, concrete or carpets at each of your locations. This can be used to treat potential problem areas such as front entrances, steps, or thawed and re-frozen run-off on walkways
- Hiring a professional ESM company to manage your snow removal and cover your company with one insurance policy
Good winter maintenance and proactive summer planning affords you the best value for your snow and ice removal needs. Simply, your options and negotiating ability are much greater the earlier your needs are addressed. In addition to the economical advantages associated with snow and ice control, other benefits include:
- Reduced overall maintenance costs
- Reduced parking lot sweeping costs
- Reduced accidents
- Higher levels of service
- Increased equipment life
- Overall reduced material use
- Reduced impact to the environment
In summary, it can be relatively simple to alleviate and eliminate concerns about snow removal by adhering to four basic principles:
- Always prepare thoroughly and early.
- Plan your snow removal program with careful consideration of specifications.
- Mother Nature is extremely unpredictable with no calendar or budget.
- Hire a professional snow removal company and allow them to do their job.
Kevin Dent is CEO of DENTCO, a DeWitt, Michigan-based Exterior Services Management company.