Once Snow Ridden, Twice Shy

Once Snow Ridden, Twice Shy

It’s official. The winter weather is upon us and is bound to intensify throughout the season. Already this year, Mother Nature has showered us with hurricanes, flooding, volcanic eruptions and various other extraordinary events – who knows what tricks she may have up her sleeve for the snow season! While there is little we can do to avoid severe winter storms and precipitation, the best prevention is a dose of preparation!

For a truly successful snow start-up, preparation should have started months ago, in the form of snow and ice control plans and implementation processes. Securing quality contractors and determining the logistics and specifications necessary for a thorough response plan are processes that take ample time for planning and implementation. Those facility managers that chose to begin thinking about winter plans during the summer months will certainly have the best snow response plans this winter, allowing them to get their locations back into operation safely and efficiently after a significant storm.

Unfortunately, schedules are busy and taking action on organizing snow removal needs can sometimes be at the bottom of the priority list, until snow is in the forecast. Procrastination will find you unprepared for severe conditions, placing properties at risk for lost profits due to customer inaccessibility, and exposing liability threats accompanying hazardous ingress and egress. Late acting facility managers are often left scrambling to secure snow and ice removal services to clear pedestrian paths and parking lots – and at greater costs compared to pre-planning.

Snow and Ice Damage
Winter weather events can cause significant damage to your exterior assets, but more importantly, they can expose your retail location to tremendous liabilities and potentially damaging litigious situations. Furthermore, without a thorough snow removal plan in place, access to your store or parking areas may be blocked, deterring patronage and eliminating potential sales.

Recent research has begun to show just how much snow and ice can truly affect your bottom line. According to one study, for each day that retail operations are inaccessible following a severe snowstorm, up to $600 million may be lost in retail sales. If you multiply that figure by a handful of storms each season, you’ll understand how valuable prompt snow removal services can be to your facility.

Moreover, proper sidewalk and parking lot maintenance can also provide a degree of protection from the litigation brought by many of the one million Americans seeking emergency room treatment for accidental falls each year. Clearing pedestrian paths and parking areas of slippery snow and ice will help mitigate safety risks for your customers and therefore provide a cushion for liability. Considering the pitfalls and added costs associated with poor winter planning, it is understandable that you would make such a mistake only once! Yet a snow and ice response plan is not just about mitigating damage and costs – good winter maintenance can lead to an enhanced perception of store quality, stronger brand loyalty and increased revenues, leaving the unkempt competitor down the street out in the cold!

On the Horizon
So what is in store for this winter? Despite discrepancies in the details, winter forecasts agree on one thing – this will be a winter of extremes. If you have locations in the Northeast, expect cooler-than-normal conditions and above average snowfall. In fact, the AccuWeather.com Winter Storm Center is forecasting snowfall at 125% of normal for the central and southern Appalachians. There are also two noteworthy storms predicted for the Northeast and Midwest. The first and milder of the two should come in late December, while the second is predicted for February, with a potential for blizzard conditions.

Temperatures in the South and Southeast should be relatively mild, but with plenty of precipitation through the season. Weak El Nino conditions are expected through 2004, with an increased potential for stronger conditions affecting winter weather in late January. The West can look forward to mild temperatures for the first half of winter, and slightly cooler conditions for the rest of the season.

Across the nation, however, unpredictability will be the name of the game as regions experience periods of unseasonable warmth, alternating with unseasonably cool conditions. Closely monitoring weather conditions for your locations will be key in prompt maintenance following storms, especially with the extreme variability that is predicted this season.

No Such Thing as Too Early
Over the years, the weather has continued to become more and more uncharacteristic and unpredictable – evident in the extreme conditions already witnessed this year. With this volatility, it becomes increasingly important to be prepared for any winter event that may occur. If you did not take the necessary measures this winter, be sure to do so for future winters. With a master plan in place for your exterior services, you will be better equipped to respond to any rare or severe circumstance that may occur on your property.

First and foremost, it is never too early to begin thinking about snow and ice removal. Summer planning consistently leads to the most successful strategies, as it gives facility managers adequate time to commence discussions, specifications development and best practices for winter operations. Knowing your clean list and reviewing site surveys to identify the location of sensitive exterior assets and to determine areas of high priority for facility service are the most basic elements to building a solid response plan come winter. Furthermore, the most comprehensive plans are enhanced through proactive weather condition tracking and extensive knowledge of exterior maintenance products and technology.

Partnering with a company that specializes in exterior service maintenance may save you time, money and manpower, all of which would be better used focusing on your core competencies. A qualified contractor will be able to streamline your exterior services and help you maintain the curb appeal and maintenance schedules necessary to ensure a successful snow season each and every year.