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How to manage the risks posed by icy weather events such as freezing rain, ice storms, and flash freezing

When most commercial property owners or managers think wintertime, they think snow. And while snow clearing is an important aspect of winter property maintenance, there is an enemy that can perhaps be more deadly: Freezing conditions on your property. Due to the City of Toronto's unique environmental conditions, hazards arising out of ice accumulation are a frequent occurrence, so dangerous freezing conditions can suddenly and unexpectedly strike your property. Most snow removal companies offer some form of deicing service but the way in which the deicing service operates varies greatly from contractor to contractor.

One of the most common methods is that the contractor attempts to get service confirmation from a the owner of the property, and calls the owner asking whether or not to apply salt in any particular circumstance. This method is flawed for two reasons: By accepting or rejecting a service call, the property owners have put the onus on themselves as the decision making party, and shall therefore be responsible for any liability incurred based on their decision. Not only that, but your property's deicing service should never be dependent on whether or not you can get a hold of your contractor, at a moment's notice, at any given time of day or night.

Ensure that your deicing contract is a flat-rate one, and includes service for sleet, slush, freezing rain, flash freezing, and snowfalls falling short of the plowable accumulation limit.

Another common method is for the contractor to have absolute control of when they apply the salt, however this must be a flat-rate service in order to avoid any unexpected or exorbitant charges. If your property is on a flat-rate contract, there is no further financial implication for you when the contractor provides an automatic service run for freezing rain or flash freeze conditions. The contractor would perform the service automatically, would never need to contact the property owner on a per occurrence basis for authorization, and unexpected charges would never get unknowingly incurred by the owner. The contractor also takes the responsibility of making the decision of whether to salt or not upon his own shoulders, thus relieving the owner of any liability incurred based on this decision. With a flat-rate contract, the contractor would never be able to run up the owner's bill with unnecessary salt applications, and the owner would never face any unexpected invoices.

Tip: Ensure that your deicing contract is a flat-rate one, and includes service for sleet, slush, freezing rain, flash freezing, and snowfalls falling short of the plowable accumulation limit. Many contractors will charge on a per occurrence basis. Having this service as a fixed cost eliminates the worry of incurring extra charges. Your deicing services will only be as effective as the contractor you hire.

Tip: Many smaller contractors are involved in a multitude of business activities. The right contractor for your snow and ice removal is one that does not perform any other services during the winter season, and maintains an active, 24-hour per day weather watch.

Tip: Timing is critical. Discuss with your prospective contractor what their policy is regarding deicing application and timing. A thorough understanding of when the correct time to apply deicing products is essential for deicing success.

There are two common deicing products used for properties in Toronto: One is rock salt, and the other is a more environmentally-friendly salt alternative. It is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both products.

Road Salt:

Common Usages of Rock Salt:
- Asphalt or concrete parking lots
- City Sidewalks
- Paved or concrete walkways

- The most cost-efficient and sustainable deicing product available on the market today
- Melts ice and snow quickly, even at very cold temperatures, and leaves a dry surface
- Is the most commercially available product which experiences the least shortages in supply

- Heightened environmental impact (due to its corrosive nature), especially to plant life that grows adjacent to surface areas applied with rock salt
- Interlocking brick, slate, or decorative stone walkways are more susceptible to damage by rock salt
- Hurts some pet's paws if it gets stuck in between their toes or in their fur

Salt Alternative:
(Monster Plowing Company uses a Green Ice Melter)

- Far less damaging environmental impact than salt
- Much smaller risk of damaging the adjacent landscaping
- Safe to use on specialty surfaces (interlock, flagstone, etc)
- One of its unique properties is that the product does not bounce or roll when applied, thereby sticking to its intended surface. It is less prone to 'overspray' (material landing or bouncing to where it was not intended to go)

- There is a heightened cost to this product when compared to salt. Generally the cost prohibits the use of such a product on wide-open areas such as parking lots, however using this product on walkways and steps will ultimately help the landscaping and the environment at the same time

Tip: Ensure that your contractor has sufficient inventory and supply of all deicing products to last through the entire winter, as it can become unavailable locally during periods of heightened demand.

Tip: If your winter maintenance includes snow plowing but lacks deicing services, you may only be covered for less than 50% of a snow season's dangerous weather events. You should interview your contractor thoroughly on their policies and procedures regarding deicing. Their attitude towards this topic will be very foretelling.

An ideal deicing program will include the following:
- The contractor can act at any time that he believes the environmental conditions dictate the deicing
- Applications are made automatically, with absolutely no charges per application in order to avoid excessive over-charges
- The person who manages the property keeps open lines of communication with the contractor in order to let him know about localized icy conditions on their property as they may arise

Written by George Armstrong, General Manager, Monster Plowing Company

Having started his career with Monster in the early days of the organization, George has been instrumental in helping make Monster Plowing Company what it is today. George brings with him intense enthusiasm for his work. Snow maintenance isn't just a job, its a passion, and his input, innovative thinking, and creative problem solving have proven invaluable to the success of our team. From sales to equipment maintenance, service delivery to quality control, George ensures that every day is a smooth one. In 2015, George's dedication culminated in being named a 2015 All-Star of Snow and Ice by the international Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA).
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