The best laid plans

Snow and Ice Report - Director’s Note

COVID-19 is this winter's monkey wrench. Here are some thoughts on how to prevent it from gumming up your snow and ice management operations.

December 7, 2020

I’ve fielded a number of phone calls lately from snow professionals concerned about the state of their operations heading into Winter 2020-21. They’re centered around unique logistical issues we’re forced to face by these challenging times.

As preventative measures, contractors are implementing safeguards to ensure team members have as little physical contact with each other as possible. Fortunately, much of snow and ice management is already socially distanced. While one-to-a-truck is the norm, the key is to implement an event action plan that allows for the most effective response from crew members who interact as little as possible with one another.

Likewise, instead of having everyone converge on the shop before dispatching to various client properties, contractors are preparing crew members to bypass the shop and to report directly to jobsites. For this to be successful, everyone must have a clear understanding of where they need to be and what they need to accomplish at their assigned destinations throughout an event.

Most veteran contractors have learned – either through trial or error – the benefits to having backup plans to their seasonal game plan in the event everything goes sideways during an event. This year though, an extra layer of precaution is needed as many contractors have told me they’re developing backup plans for their backup plans, especially when addressing scenarios where multiple crew members may have to quarantine.

Having multiple crew members sidelined during a major winter storm or a string of snow and ice events could be catastrophic to your business. As the owner or top snow manager, who’s qualified to fill your shoes and make critical strategic decisions in the event you’re out of action?

Then there are those unique situations where these scenarios converge. Take, for example, properties where certain crew members have special access and only they are allowed onto the jobsite. This creates a unique challenge if one or all of them go down for any period. To manage for this, you could increase the number of crew members who have pre-approved access. This requires communication with and the cooperation of the client to approve these additional “reserve” employees.

This, of course, may mean you have to hire (and pay) additional people to wait in the wings in the event they’re needed, but this cost is justifiable if you consider the short- and long-term losses to your business in the event you’re unprepared and shorthanded.

Communication with your team and your clients is key any winter, but it is paramount for the 2020-21 season. One of the unique things about living and working with COVID is that everyone must manage through the pandemic – including your clients.

Given clear communication about any predicament you find yourself in this winter your customer will most likely be sympathetic to your plight because they’re dealing with the same logistical issues. The leeway this affords you with clients may just be enough to catch your breath, clear your mind and make the clear-headed decisions to see your team through the event.

The author is the Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). You can reach him at