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A Flurry of Questions

Learn about important elements to consider when developing a snow RFP.


By Kara Simmons, Manager of Contracts & Proposals, DENTCO



Summer is here, which means it’s time to start planning for the upcoming snow season. If you are managing locations in northern states, snow removal and ice control are crucial to your businesses. Now is the time that snow contractors and management companies begin to plan for their services and large-scale equipment needs.


As you are developing your request for proposals (RFPs) for snow contractors or exterior services management (ESM) companies, there are several questions to consider.


Determine your program: per-service or seasonal.

First, determine if you want a seasonal snow rate billed over equal payment installments or a per-service program. It is typical that a per-service agreement can be more costly if it is an active snow season, whereas a seasonal agreement is a flat rate regardless of the snowfall.

Also, decide your snowfall trigger. There is typically a two-inch trigger for multi-site facilities, meaning once there are two inches of snow on the ground, the Supplier or management company will dispatch their team to the site.


Think about risk management and preventing slip-and-fall accidents.

Do you need the parking lots and sidewalks deiced to prevent dangerous conditions, or do you want to bear the risk and accept liability for any resulting slips and falls by limiting deicer applications?


What deicer products do you want used? It is recommended to get a healthy balance of affordability and surface protection to apply sodium chloride to parking lots over one year in age and municipal sidewalks; and calcium chloride to parking lots less than one year in age and private sidewalks.


Liability for slip-and-fall accidents will likely only be accepted by the snowplow contractor if they determine when services are needed. For example, if the specification calls for plowing/clearing at two inches, deicing for slippery conditions (including refreezing, sleet, freezing rain, after plowing/clearing), the snowplow contractor can determine when and how often services should be provided based on the forecast and local conditions.


However, if the deicing is set up as an on-call service only, most Suppliers will not accept liability since they are not allowed to apply deicer as needed, and accidents are more likely to occur. In fact, their insurance companies will be less likely, if at all, to cover accidents under this type of situation.


According to Martin B. Tirado, Chief Executive Officer of Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA), “It is essential to monitor procedures and have documentation as essential risk management tools. These procedures should be outlined in service agreements with ongoing communication between facility managers and service providers.”


Consider the hours of operation and when you want the property serviced.

Do you need the property serviced 24/7? While closes, many companies limit services to once in the morning before opening in order to reduce costs.


What time in the morning do your employees begin arriving? If it is 7 a.m., you will want services completed no later than 6 a.m. to provide a safe environment for employees arriving on site.


There are also dark properties to consider, which may need service, as most municipalities will require the municipal sidewalks to be cleared of accumulated snow, at a minimum.


Check with the Supplier or management company on their processes.

Make sure to select a Supplier that will take care of dispatching services for you and who will know when you hit your snowfall trigger.


Determine if the ESM has a quality assurance program and their escalation process — snow and ice control are time sensitive. Neither you nor your site managers should have to follow up on services; this is what you have hired a management company to do.


Know the scope of work and level of service.

Ultimately, to have a successful snow removal contract and service, facilities managers and service providers should clarify in their agreements the differences between scope of work and level of service. These two items are often confused but are unique and critical to a good business agreement.


According to SIMA, “Level of service is a description of the expected outcome on a site from the completed performance of snow and ice management services. Scope of work (SOW) defines the service criteria (e.g., snow clearing, ice management, etc.) and specific areas to be serviced on a site.”


There are many key factors to consider when developing a snow removal RFP to keep your sites safe for employees and customers. It is critical to keep these points and questions in mind to avoid unnecessary accidents and to keep your sites cleared of snow in a timely manner.

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