In most cases snow and ice service providers operate as an invisible industry. Winter storms occur at any and all times, with the public’s main concern being that their local streets, highways or work parking lots have been serviced to provide a clear path for transportation. What is often unappreciated are the long hours that operators work during storms; the planning and preparations made in advance to be as effective and efficient as possible; and the amount of equipment needed to do the job. All of these efforts are conducted during times when the public wants to be in the safe, secure and warm environments of their own homes.
In reality snow and ice management are emergency services necessary to provide safety and enhance commerce, whether that be auto or pedestrian. Both municipal and private industry snow and ice service providers alike can benefit from telling the stories of the important work they do. During the winter of 2012–13, the Snow and Ice Management Association started the “Impact of Snow” campaign to better inform the public of the importance of snow and ice service providers and to provide people with a few general tips on how to keep safe and avoid injuries during severe winter storms.
Some of the core messages that SIMA provided were on safe winter walking; tips for holiday shopping when there is snow and ice; proper shoveling techniques; and generally about showing appreciation for workers in the field when winter storms arrive. With over 12 million people exposed to our messages (www.snowmatters.blogspot.com/2013/04/sharing-impact-of-snow.html), we felt this was just the beginning. We need to continue to tell our story to a larger audience.
Municipal and private operators are seeing increased regulation in our industry, mainly in regards to the impact chlorides used in ice management have on bodies of fresh water. Some counties and local areas in Illinois and Minnesota have mandated lower salt application rates. New Hampshire recently passed legislation providing a training program for salt applicators to become certified and offered liability protection for their performance. Currently, the certification is voluntary, but the message is clear: There must be reductions in the amount of chlorides on paved surfaces in order to protect our critical natural resource of fresh water.
This is where high-quality training and technology can be best put to use. The equipment used in snow and ice is continuing to evolve, and there are academic entities conducting research to improve our knowledge of how snow and ice melt products work. The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, is in the midst of a multi-year research project to determine optimum salt and other ice management material application rates.
As more people become aware of the importance of snow and ice services, a sense of professionalism and pride in what operators do will grow. Municipalities will be better able to communicate the return on investment that taxpayers make to have this essential service provided. Private contractors will be viewed on equal terms with other skilled trades and, even more so, as emergency responders. Our role in ensuring safety will be greater recognized.
Public and private partnerships in the snow and ice management industry have existed for years. Each entity relies on each other to perform. If one fails, they can both be viewed as failing. Just think of when a person slips and falls or slides off a road or driveway while driving. A person doesn’t distinguish who is exactly at fault initially, just that specific areas were not adequately cleared. Both municipal and private contractors are fighting to protect themselves against liability and some frivolous lawsuits.
One answer to these issues is more awareness, more knowledge and more resources. Thus, the “Impact of Snow” campaign must go on.