When evaluating your winter service needs and starting the process of looking for a qualified service provider, it is increasingly important to be thorough in your search. Asking the right questions can help you to differentiate between a mediocre and an exceptional winter service provider. Here are five key questions to be asking in pursuit of a great service provider.
Is your winter service provider progressive? Progressive service providers are always looking for better ways to deliver service to their clients. This year’s salt shortage has service providers looking for new ways to reduce salt usage on sites by investing in new plows that offer greater ground contour resulting in a better road cleanup after plowing. This means that less salt needs to be used to melt the remaining snow after plowing. In recent years there have been significant improvements with ‘Live Edge’ or ‘Flex Edge’ plows whose cutting edge is made up of individual flexing sections 12 to 18 inches in length that contour to the road surface allowing better snow clean-up. As a result, substantially less salt is required to return conditions to bare pavement. While the savings in salt costs help cover the 30% increase in equipment costs, the true savings of less salt use on site are to condominium infrastructure such as concrete pavers, walkway and vegetation.
Is your service provider Smart about Salt certified? The Smart about Salt Council is a not-for-profit organization which offers training to improve winter salting practices and recognizes industry leaders through certification. Salt is an effective tool used to battle winter’s snow and ice. It does, however, have the potential to affect ground vegetation, sidewalks, roadways and urban infrastructure. Salt must be applied in the correct circumstances and at the correct amounts in order to maximize its effectiveness and lesson its harmful affects on the environment. A Smart about Salt service provider has invested in training and made a commitment to comply with industry standards to lesson the negative salts impacts on your infrastructure.
Does your service provider hold themselves and your service to a higher standard? Service providers who are serious about delivering a higher service standard use tools for continuous improvement. The SN 9001 Quality Management System, specifically for the snow and ice industry, is an example of such a tool. Some of the key elements of the SN 9001 process are:
· The pre-site inspection to look at existing damage and determine best locations to pile snow.
· Creation and “sign-off” of the snow map by the board or property manager.
· The post storm audit to note any deficiencies and constantly look for continuous improvement.
To maintain the standard, the certification is audited each year by third-party auditors. Although involving significant time and resources, the implementation of a Quality Management System demonstrates a commitment to high standards.
What is your contractor using to track the weather? There is no doubt that understanding winter weather is key to understanding how to react to winter conditions. Is your service provider relying only on free weather services available on smart phone or free websites? If they are, they are likely missing important details such as road surface temperature, precipitation type, cloud cover and dew point in their forecasts. Subscribing to alternative meteorological weather data services provides contractors greater insight to weather conditions that are unique to your location. For example, with rain on the way and a ground surface temperature of -3 degrees, black ice will form almost immediately. Many free weather services will likely report rain with no indications of the potentially dangerous situation present with the below zero ground temperatures. These different weather insights are key to determining when the conditions warrant a pre-salting or night patrol teams monitoring on site conditions. Being prepared is key to providing the appropriate service, timed correctly.
Are you informed about the type of service that is being performed at your property this winter? No great service is complete without good communication. Regular communication on upcoming weather events and the plans for tackling winter weather offer the peace of mind that your condominium is being well looked after.
Vice-President, Maintenance and Snow
Gelderman Landscape Services