It’s not too early to begin planning for your retail operations’ winter

It’s not too early to begin planning for your retail operations’ winter

The Weather Outside Is Delightful

Before you say, “It doesn’t snow where I live,” keep in mind that practically every location in the United States has seen snowfall. Even most portions of Southern Florida have seen a few snow flurries. Of course, growing up in Lansing, Michigan, I soon came to realize that snow was not only a dependable scapegoat for a day out of school, but it was also an integral part of retail operations and the economy. So, being in the retail business, I am sure you are not surprised that we will be discussing snow and ice removal planning in the month of June.

Planning For Snow & Ice Control
To ensure a successful snow season start up, the most important matter is the timeliness of commencing discussion, specification development and procedure. Snow services that are addressed in the late summer months are consistently more successful than those that are commenced belatedly. This is the most important issue when a facility manager is addressing their snow removal needs. This time is necessary for procurement of contractors with available slots in their service schedule, the opportunity to become well versed with a location and its inherent needs and time to develop a game plan to ensure seamless customer service.

Prior to enactment of a comprehensive snow program, the ESM (exterior services management) company and the customer must agree upon specifications that will satisfy the customer’s needs for service and, more importantly, eliminate the worry of liability issues. The more encompassing the specifications, the less likely service issues or litigious situations will arise. Consideration must also be given to the types of material used. There will be areas that may require calcium treatment and others where sodium- based products will suffice. This needs to be clearly defined prior to commencement of the snow and ice season.

Avoid Snow Delays
Snow removal, especially during a significant event, can present a number of dilemmas to the customer. Foremost is service. However, tracking of weather conditions to ensure timely response, management of hundreds of contractors across geographic areas and accurate reconciliation of invoicing are all vital functions that are taken care of by the effective management of an ESM company. This eliminates customer concern for a number of issues that can quickly derail a successful response to a significant or lesser event.

Site Surveys & Staking
Preparation, like in any endeavor, is often the key to success. Unlike service during the “green season,” snow and ice removal requires specific logistical preparation in the form of site surveys and site staking. Although these preparations may seem simple, they can make the difference between a successful snow start-up and an unsuccessful one.

Know Your Clean List
Another important multifaceted task is the development and transferal of a “clean list” from the retail store or facility manager. This clean list clearly identifies which sites are the store’s responsibilities and which sites may be subject to lease terms, franchising or non-customer ownership and responsibility. The sooner this list is completed and transferred to your ESM, the faster your master planning will be complete for the upcoming snow and ice season.

Facility Management and Ice Control
Having worked with snow and ice control over the past 25 years, I would have to say it would be easier to allow an ESM company to handle all your seasonal exterior services. However, if you are not in that position, let’s discuss the overwhelming topic of ice melters that are flooding the market. There are different brands of ice melters that feature special options and guarantees. The verbiage on a product might read “safe for vegetation” or “low-temperature effectiveness,” but these claims often require classification. A blended products ice-melting is always diminished by its weaker ingredients. The following tips are designed to help the retail and facility manager better understand ice melters.

Safety First
Pay attention to steps, sidewalks and other common areas that are the responsibility of the site manager. These areas require immediate cleanup to maintain a safe environment. An effective, fast acting deicer naturally makes snow and ice removal easier which, in turn, saves time and maintenance costs.

What Melts Fastest
Ice melters do not melt ice in their solid form. The solid must first penetrate the pavement and dissolve into brine (strong saline solution). The lower freeze point of the brine breaks the bond between the ice and the sidewalk.

Working with Colder Temperatures
Preventative maintenance is key – removing packed snow can require up to 10 times as much effort. Chemically speaking, CaC12 can be effective in cold-weather conditions down to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Rock salt is effective only down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Urea, potassium chloride and a 50/50 blend of rock salt and potassium chloride bottom out at 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Preventing Tracking
Any retail store or facility manager that uses a deicer can expect a dry white powdery residue to be left behind. This occurs when utilizing rock salt, urea, potassium chloride and blends of those materials. The two other deicers, magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, leave a clear brine solution. Regardless of the deicer, prevention is the best approach. Walk-off mats are one of the simplest yet most effective ways to cut down on tracking. Studies show that at least 4 feet of mat is needed, with 6 to 10 feet for higher traffic areas.

Protecting Green Areas and Vegetation
All deicers have the potential to harm green areas and vegetation. However, studies show calcium chloride actually poses the least threat. The best way to protect trees, shrubs and grass is to not use too much. Deicers are not intended to melt every bit of precipitation and should always be used sparingly. For calcium chloride, it usually takes only 2 to 4 ounces per square yard to effectively undercut bonded ice and snow. Keep in mind, excess snow can damage bushes, too – another reason why treated areas should always be shoveled away from sensitive vegetation. Prior to planting new areas, select trees, shrubs and grass that are less sensitive to deicing salts.

How Much Snow Will We Get This Year?
Moderate snow regions receive about 30 inches in an average year with roughly 6 inches falling each month from December through March. To check snowfall amounts for your area of the United States, see the average snowfall total table for hundreds of American cities and towns (provided by the National Climatic Data Center (http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov).

Preparation, Planning and Procedure

In summary, it can be relatively simple to alleviate and eliminate concerns about snow removal by adhering to four basic principles:
1. Always prepare thoroughly and early.
2. Plan your snow removal program with careful consideration of specifications.
3. Maintain tracking of weather conditions to provide the best early warning.
4. Know your snow removal products and their relative affect on your exteriors.

Consider these principles and how they apply to your situation. It may be to your benefit, both economically and logistically, to consider the services of an ESM provider.