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21 Tips to Survive Your Next Snowstorm

Just as we finished shoveling out from Juno, Winter Storm Kari is dropping even more white stuff over parts of the Midwest and Northeast today. We asked property managers and owners in some of Bisnow's snowiest cities to share their best practices in storm prep.

Avison Young's Peter Leroux, Toronto


Peter is the managing director for AY’s property management division in Ontario, covering 15M SF of office, retail and industrial space.

1) Prequalify Service Providers – Snow removal equipment can possibly cause damage; make sure contractors have requisite liability and property insurance in place.

2) Make Specifications Clear – When you negotiate with snow removal contractors (his team does so by August), be explicit about needs: at what point you’ll need snow removal, whether you’ll need ongoing removal throughout the day (especially for highly trafficked retail), and whether you’ll need an equipment station on site.

3) Beware of Salt Overruns – Salt's expensive, so Avison Young buys in bulk and early. Specify how much salt contractors should be putting down, because some put down too much—and that can cause damage to your property by eating away at curbs and sidewalks and killing vegetation. His staff immediately sweeps up extra salt.

Avison Young's Keith Lipton, Washington, DC


On the other geographical end of AY’s snow spectrum, Keith (second from left, with colleagues Bart Oates, Mark Rose and Tom Walsh) is COO of US operations and managing director of the DC metro offices, with over 20 years’ experience in property management.

4) Simplify the Process – Negotiate a point during a storm when your contractor will come out to plow automatically—say, if an inch of snow falls or there’s a certain amount of ice that warrants salting.

5) Understand Tenants’ Critical Needs – While leases are being signed or tenants are moving in, speak with them to find out what in their offices will be most impacted by a storm and what systems (like servers) would need to be hooked up to emergency generators to keep their businesses running.

6) Take Care of Your Staff – Security, engineering and management teams should have a place to go in case it’s impossible to get home. Reserve rooms in a nearby hotel, and have a contingency plan ready so they understand who's staffing the building and when in case there’s a lockdown.

CBRE's Deb Gallet, Chicago


Deb oversees 15M SF of industrial, suburban office and CBD office properties in the Windy City.

7) Know Your Property – Walk around before winter, looking at parking lots, sidewalks and entrances. Clear obstructions that might make snow removal difficult (like potholes and tripping hazards) and if possible, see if your property can accommodate contractors' equipment, like snowplows, which allows for an almost-immediate response.

8) Understand the Depth of Your Equipment and Staff – This is critical for adequate removal times.

9) Communicate with Tenants – Talk to them about your plans before winter comes. They may be able to point out other issues you’re not aware of. Make sure staff proactively follows up on concerns or problems.

Joseph Metcalfe & Brian Sullivan, Rockefeller Group, NYC


Joseph and Brian are the respective property managers for 1221 and 1271 Avenue of the Americas, which total 5M SF. (You can see 1221's expansive plaza above, which requires a highly coordinated snow removal effort before and after a storm). An employee of People Magazine, a tenant at 1271, filmed this great time-lapse video capturing Juno over a 24-hour period—and in the process, caught Rockefeller's property management team clearing out the snow.

10) Block Off Critical Locations - Secure various areas to limit pedestrian traffic, especially ones that typically produce falling ice.

11) Have a Written Snow Plan - Make sure it includes manpower and shift coverage, written logs for equipment usage and servicing, and a contact list of relief personnel.

12) Make Sure Equipment Works - Check all ride-on and push equipment to make sure they're in working order or serviced after each use, keeping written logs in the snow plan. Same goes with communications equipment so you can maintain radio contact with personnel and supervision.

JLL's Karen Raquet, New Jersey


Karen (right, with her husband and her daughter) is the director of national property services for JLL Retail, which has more than 160 centers, totaling nearly 50M SF, under management.

13) Be Ready to Go by Fall - Snow occurs as early as November in areas like the Midwest, so make sure procedures are outlined, employees know their key areas of responsibility, contracts are in place, and all equipment is inventoried and ordered.

14) Monitor Constantly - Last year's weather caused several dangerous roof collapses across the country, so check the roof for drifting snow and added weight near HVAC units. Watch for melting, refreezing, drain clogs and seepage, as well as backup generators, electrical systems, sprinkler rooms and back hallways for problems caused by freezing temperatures.

15) Keep Tenants Informed - JLL uses the RedFlag emergency notification system, as well as properties' websites, to relay information about closings and delays. Property managers also educate tenants about keeping properties safe, including leaving water dripping overnight to avert frozen pipes and shutting off unattended heating elements to prevent fires.

Oculus Realty's Josh Baker, Washington, DC


Josh is the director of property management for Oculus, which manages 1,500 apartment units for properties ranging from 50 to 150 units in the DC metro.

16) Avoid Supply Issues – Oculus starts thinking about snow removal in August, when it buys ice melt in bulk to save money. It’s then delivered by November. “We started ordering supplies early because in the past, the product wasn't always available when we needed it,” he says. Have necessary tools on hand and negotiate contracts with your landscapers to make sure they’re available.

17) Form a Communications Tree – From your staff to your contractors, make sure there’s a clear plan to keep in constant contact by phone and email when snow’s coming. It’s especially important as the forecast shifts—and the last storm’s predictions changed six or seven times.

18) Err on the Side of Caution – The last thing you need is staff members or tenants to slip on ice and injure themselves. While it’s always tempting to save money, especially when the forecast calls for only a little bit of precipitation, it’s wise to pre-treat surfaces.

Novus Equities' Steven Hess, New Jersey


Steven is principal of Novus Equities, which owns a two-building medical office campus at 40 and 50 Union Ave in Irvington, NJ.

19) Stage Equipment for Critical Buildings – People who frequent Novus’ buildings use wheelchairs, walkers and canes, so it’s essential that snow and ice are cleared immediately. The firm has purchased its own snow removal equipment so they're ready right away.

20) Make Sure Your Staff is on Board – A staff that understands they might have to stay overnight to prepare properties for the following workday is critical to the property’s success. (That sometimes means setting up cots and food inside so that the properties can be constantly plowed and ready for a 7:30am opening.) Some doctors operate critical-care practices and can't afford to close their offices.

21) Consider an Alert System – Novus Equities is in the process of setting up an emergency notification system to advise tenants of snow and other emergencies that might affect their buildings, he says. The system will provide alerts via text message and email to communicate delays, whether certain parts of the buildings are closed, and other critical info.