Seasoned facilities management executives know that it’s never too soon to begin winter weather preparations. In fact, industry experts agree that summer is the ideal time to assess last year’s mistakes and plan for a successful snow- and ice-removal strategy.
“If a company is pleased with the services it received over the previous winter, I recommend renewing the current agreement immediately,” said Kevin Dent, CEO, Dentco, DeWitt, Mich. “Snow-removal agreements should be completed no later than Aug. 1 each year.”
The benefit of early planning is simple: A company’s options and negotiating ability are much greater the earlier its snow- and ice-removal needs are addressed.
“Anyone who has ever tried to source a snow-removal vendor once winter is under way, or worse, in the middle of a snowstorm, should understand this,” Dent said.
A written, strategic, well-developed and well-executed snow- and ice-control plan is essential for safety and for efficient and cost-effective exterior facility management. It can also protect a chain from litigation.
“In the event a liability situation does arise, a snow- and ice-control plan can serve as a valuable defense tool that communicates the preventive steps taken to provide a safe environment for employees and customers,” Dent said.
Property awareness should be the first step for retailers in developing a snow- and ice-control plan.
“Develop and maintain a ‘clean list’ that clearly identifies which locations are your company’s responsibility and which may be subject to lease terms, franchising or outside ownership and responsibility,” Dent said.
It’s also important to examine site maps and the most recent site surveys to identify location of sensitive exterior assets and determine areas that require high-service priority. Also, the areas that pose the greatest risk to customers and employees and receive the greatest foot traffic should be identified.
“Clearing pedestrian areas that aren’t accessible by tractor or plow, such as stairs, may be higher priority for retailers than lots and driveways as they are crucial to the safe ingress and egress of customers,” Dent explained.
A professional contractor will conduct a site assessment to determine the areas of top priority and in the sequence of operations.
Once the scope of the plan and service expectations have been outlined, a detailed response plan should be developed. The service provider should work with the retailer to determine the plan’s specifications.
“The specifications and procedures outlined in a snow response plan must be extremely thorough in order to avoid operational chaos and injuries,” Dent advised.
According to Dent, the plan should typically include, but not be limited to, the following: