Mock snow event prepares Landscape Services for upcoming winter season

November 2020

Team members in masks chatting while out on campus is snow clearing machineryAlthough it was a balmy 20 degrees Celsius just days ago, Facilities Management’s Landscape Services team took advantage of the warm weather by rolling out its full snow clearing fleet. The team conducted a mock snow event as a proactive move ahead of this week's accumulation of the white stuff.

“This is the second year we’ve conducted a dry run of our snow operations in advance of the consistently cold weather,” says Mike Lunau, Manager of Landscape Services. “The proactive move helps us iron out the details for the upcoming season.”

Lunau notes that the mock event has already helped to identify a seized plow wing on one of the tractors and some concrete surfaces on campus that have heaved, causing the plow blades to catch.

“These are the types of things we look for in an event like this,” says Lunau. “We can get ahead of these issues, have time to adjust equipment, and grind down those uneven surfaces.”

The dry run supports the operation in other ways. The team can experiment with new equipment to evaluate the capabilities and limitations. For example, one equipment operator noted a tight squeeze with the sidewalk plow near the Natural Science Building. As a result, the area will continue to be cleared manually with shovels.

Using the GPS system to track the full clearing route, Lunau can map the path and chronology of each vehicular unit and identify areas still requiring service. This system also provides a historical record of each event.

The event gives the team a chance to review closures such as on Concrete Beach adjacent to the University Community Centre. In order to allow space for snow piles and optimize maintenance resources, Landscape Services partitions sections of campus.

“We took time ahead of this week's snowfall to step back, get the whole picture, and adjust as needed,” says Lunau. “Once the season rolls along, we’ll be more reactive and there won’t be the same opportunity to plan and evaluate our strategy.”

The exercise lasted about four hours, which is about half the time the crew would normally need to clean up an average dump of snow. In large snow events, in which the snow continues to fall throughout the day, the team would continue working on a rotating schedule, providing 24 hours of service throughout the week with on-call coverage on the weekend.

Playing it safe

Western’s vast terrain plays a role in the snow management strategy. The campus is connected by 15 kilometres of roadway and pathway, has more than 7,000 parking spaces, and hundreds of building entrances. Thousands of staff, faculty, students, and community members travel through campus daily. Keeping all travelable surfaces clear is critical and particular focus is put on opening up pedestrian pathways. Although COVID-19 has reduced the number of building occupants and volumes of people on campus, the Landscape Services team is committed to maintaining a safe and accessible campus.

“We have preplanned, but larger snow events, like blizzards, can inundate our team,” says Bryan Wakefield, Director of Operations, Facilities Management. “During continuous, heavy snowfall, we stay on top of our priority areas – trying to keep major paths and roadways open, while also focusing on essential services such as emergency routes, accessibility infrastructure, daycare facilities, loading docks, and large lots.”

Wakefield notes that the campus community can best support the team’s efforts by reporting areas that have been left for a significant amount of time or are extremely slippery. Staff and faculty members should notify their administrators, while students are encouraged to call Facilities Management Client Services, 519-661-3304. Client Services phones are actively answered by a live agent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We have to work together to ensure that everyone stays safe,” Wakefield said. “It really is vital that the campus community takes proper precautions, dresses for the weather, and plans their trip across campus in snowy conditions.


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