Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Expect the Unexpected

In the legendary 1970s television sitcom Sanford and Son, grouchy lead character Fred Sanford would frequently get his son's attention by dramatically saying, "Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had.  You hear that Elizabeth?  I'm coming to join you, honey" mimicking a big heart attack that never came.  Snow and ice management professional encounter a lot of Fred Sanfords' each season when the next winter event on the Doppler radar is proclaimed to be the "biggest one ever" or over-eager local meteorologists herald the "storm of the century."

With television personalities not exactly batting a thousand when it comes to accurately predicting when and where snow will fall, and in what quantities, snow and ice management professionals need to rely on their advance preparation skills and experience to battle significant snow events.  Being able to deliver the contracted snow and ice removal services once the heavy stuff is coming down (and down, and down) is what separates the superior contractors from the also-rans.

A lot of the legwork involved in allowing snow and ice contractors to meet the challenges of handling a major snow and ice event are done when the grass is still green and the laves are still on the trees.  At Arctic Snow and Ice Control, a Frankfort, Ill.-based company dedicated to providing snow and ice management services to commercial clients in Illinois and northwest Indiana, fall is meeting season as the company brings its staff together to review safety training, and plowing and equipment operating procedures.

"We do more than a dozen meetings with our drivers, plow, skid steer and loader operators to review our operating procedures with an emphasis on safety," says Rick Bell, general manager of Arctic Snow and Ice Control.  "We also go over our color-coded, in-house salt application and communication procedures."  Pre-season preparations also include meeting with the field foreman to review site maps, routes and information on each client.  A site inspection is then conducted by the foreman and the company's detailed pre-season site checklist is reviewed.  They also review areas for where snow can be piled, what areas of the property can or cannot be plowed, and the condition of walks, curbs and islands.

The checklist notes potential hazards or damage on the property that crews could encounter during the winter including the location of:
  • Sewer lids
  • Sprinkler heads
  • Shopping cart corrals
  • Signage
  • Fire hydrants
  • Lighting
  • Handicap parking spots
  • Speed bumps
  • Islands
  • Drainage locations
Once the storm has stopped falling and the ice has melted, Arctic's foremen take to the road to complete their post-event checklist.  The checklist includes the following information:
  • Did the event require salting, plowing and how many inches of snow fell?
  • What areas of the site were completed and what condition were they in?
 Key areas on this list include: Parking lots; shopping cart corrals; walks and stairs; entrances and exits; handicapped parking; dumpsters; and fire hydrants.

What items get "buried in the snow" in the run up to a major snow and ice event?  Veteran snow pros offer the following tips:
  • Things can change during the season so make sure you or your foreman make an in-person visit to job sites to identify any changes that need to be made to your plan.
  • Make sure you have enough manpower to get the job done.
  • Make sure your equipment is in good repair and that you have spare parts on hand in case of an emergency.
  • Double check your supplies (salt, de-icing materials, fuel, etc.) and make sure your crews have what they need.
  • Communicate with customers before, during and after the event - a well-informed customer is usually a satisfied customer.
 To read more on preparing for The Big One, read the rest of this article on Snow Magazine's website.

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