Facility Dude

Snow removal companies: Questions to ask

By Kate Donnelly
Jan 13, 2016

Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Management

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Snow removal companies: Questions to ask The weather forecast was right: Sunday rolled around and with it a massive blizzard. In an ideal world, you'd have nothing else to do on your building's to-do list and would have more than enough time and resources to efficiently clear out the parking lot (and in an ideal world, it wouldn't have snowed at all!). But that's not how real life works. As a facilities manager, snow removal is just one of the many demanding duties you have to do on a daily basis. So, while it's best to organize and manage snow removal for your building yourself, sometimes it's most cost-effective and makes the most sense to hire a private snow removal company. 

The association recommends that building managers always require a formal bid, a defined contract agreement and proof of all insurances, including general liability insurance, when forming a relationship with a private snow removal company. However, don't leave this relationship with the company to a quick Google search and a stern handshake. When negotiating a snow removal service agreement, it's important to do you research, fully understand the company and its capabilities and effectively communicate your needs. To help do this, make sure you ask these questions when negotiating a contract:

What is your communication plan for when a snowstorm hits?

Understanding how the contractor will divide their time among the multiple properties they need to serve is essential to creating a strong plan. As FacilitiesNet noted, snow removal companies have more than just your building to clean up when a storm arrives. A reputable snow removal company worth investing in will have a clear plan in place for managing multiple properties during storms. As the site notes, "Contractors who know the business will have a specific communication plan in place to keep customers informed and up to date when these events occur." Whether this plan is carried out via email, phone, web platforms or on-site visits, you need to know what to expect ahead of time so you're not left in the dark.

Do you have an established process for snow removal?

Reputable snow removal companies will have detailed and comprehensive plans created before winter arrives that outline their snow removal plans. FacilitiesNet notes that the company you choose should have a written process already in place that includes scheduled routes, which dispatchers are responsible for which areas and more than enough staff for each area of coverage. Also make sure that the company has been maintaining their equipment year-round and conducting regular inspections. There should be no surprises. A company that doesn't have a plan will just lower your sanity, not your snow levels.

What are your de-icing and anti-icing methods?

De-icing and anti-icing methods are used to melt ice from services and prevent ice from forming. They use chemicals and substances including calcium chloride and sand and salt, and are an important part of the snow removal process for your building. The NH Department of Environmental Services recommends facilities managers ask specific questions concerning these methods, like whether the contractor calibrates his salt spreader every year, as this can improve efficiency and lower costs by the amount of salt required to be spread by 5 to 7 percent.

Another question managers should ask is whether the contractor uses infrared thermometers to inform the amount of salt that will be applied. The source explains that the temperature of parking lot pavement is typically warmer than air temperature, and so the temperature of the pavement may be above freezing even though the air registers below freezing. If this is the case, a second application of salt is probably not necessary.Infrared sensors will pick up on this difference, saving you money and time.

Additional questions

FacilitiesNet recommends also asking these questions when choosing a snow removal company or negotiating a contract:

  • How long has the service provider been in business?
  • Has the contractor explained prices for services sufficiently?
  • What specific services does the facility require?
  • Does the contract clearly state these services?
  • Can the contractor provide comparable references?
  • Does the contractor have the necessary equipment and employees to manage the site?

In some cases, hiring a private snow removal company is worth the money. It can save you valuable time and stress so you can get to the other duties on your to-do list. When choosing a snow removal company and negotiating a contract, make sure you ask these questions to get the best service for your building and wallet.

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