Seven Best Practices for Choosing a Snow and Ice Management Partner
How to choose wisely and protect your property during storm season
1. It's Never Too Early
Don't wait. Whether you're looking to engage a snow and ice management provider or switching from one provider to another, give yourself at least three months to:
- Properly vet providers.
- Develop a transition plan if needed.
- Work with your provider to determine the scope and budget for your property or portfolio of properties.
Planning and engaging early also ensures that you'll get the best providers. Wait too long and chances are those providers will have already committed to the maximum sites they can realistically handle. Signing on early with a provider also gives more time to properly plan, often giving you more pricing options.
2. Determine Your Needs
A lot goes into determining your needs. A good place to start is your existing scope of services. Does it accurately reflect the level of service you require for your site(s)? Review it with your snow and ice management provider and ask for their comments on your scope documents and specific suggestions on ways to improve or streamline services for your property or portfolio. Consider any additional needs that might arise due to current or projected changes, such as new buildings, parking areas, building use, and sustainability goals.
Ask your provider to present a site map detailing snow stacking areas and identifying drainage, fire hydrants, and other notable attributes of your site. You should communicate any priority areas, known trouble spots, or special requirements as part of your scope discussion. Download the free best practices checklist from the Snow and Ice Management Association for more information.
3. Consider the Pricing Options
Budgeting snow and ice management services can be difficult due to the variability in weather patterns and pricing options. Service pricing ranges from time and materials to a per-inch model to seasonal fixed fee contracts. Do you want to pay only for services delivered, which may be minimal in light years and very expensive in heavy snow years? Do you prefer a set price by storm regardless of how long it takes to clear the snow (also known as a per-inch model)? Or would you prefer a set price for the season, giving you the highest level of budget assurance?
A good provider will be able to offer different pricing methods to align with your fiscal preference.
4. Assess Execution and Responsiveness Capabilities
The extent to which a provider can perform the job and be proactive in the event of bad weather directly impacts whether or not your property is accessible and safe during and after a storm. Do they have the foresight and resources to bring in additional resources — equipment and manpower — for large storms? Confirm that the provider you've chosen has the ability to track and react in a timely fashion to inclement weather.
Check that your provider has the right equipment for your specific property or portfolio of properties. Using equipment that's too large on a smaller site can damage curbs and hardscape. Equipment that's too small for the job causes inefficiencies and raises costs.
5. Ensure Safety and Risk Management
Make sure your provider has adequate liability insurance coverage, including a rider for snow services. Be sure they have a documented safety program and adhere to all local and national regulations and licensing practices. Confirm that the people who will be servicing your property are knowledgeable about the environmental impact of ice control products and sustainable practices.
6. Establish Regular Communication and Documentation
Ask any provider you're considering about their systems and processes for proactive and easy communication. Inquire whether you'll receive service reports, work completion notifications, and transparent reporting on spending across your portfolio. Also, confirm that the provider you choose subscribes to a private weather forecasting service and will issue alerts and pre-storm communications so that everyone necessary at your property is informed of coming inclement weather and the plan to service your site.
7. Check Certifications and Expertise
It should go without saying that the provider you choose should be certified. Does your provider hold qualifications from the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) and Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA)? Does your contractor perform snow just to keep busy during the winter or do they have full-time, year-round dedicated snow professionals on staff? Ask for references and check with current and past clients about the provider's professionalism and performance.
Final Note: Team with a Provider Who Understands Your Goals and Challenges
Every property differs, as do the goals and challenges facing every business. Take the time to find a provider who understands your needs and will help you achieve your short- and long-term goals. Ask the important questions. Time spent doing this will be rewarded with service that meets and beats expectations and protects your budget, your property, clients, visitors, and guests from winter risks.