How much snow can you afford to accumulate in your parking lot? Not just what is in your budget, but how much are you willing to risk the safety of your staff and customers? when you don’t prepare appropriately you put your institution, business, visitors, customers, and staff at risk. First thing first, you should always start the process of hiring a snow removal company before the snow season begins. The last thing you want is surprises overnight snowfall leaving no access to your business. You are left scrambling and at the end of an already long line of companies. No one can predict how much snowfall is expected, even if they try, mother nature tends to prove everyone wrong. How often is the predicted inches of snow correct?

Once you have secured a snow removal company, it is time to start thinking about snow triggers. Snow triggers are the agreed amount of snow to accumulate before the snow removal company comes to plow. If your snow trigger is 1”, the snow removal company must plow it at that measurement. Choosing the triggers is not an arbitrary process. Different locations have different triggers. Property is what is going to dictate the trigger. Each property has a different set of needs and limitations. Understanding those needs and limitations is paramount to figuring out your trigger amount. Some places have a 2-inch trigger, while others have a zero-tolerance trigger.

Snow plow


Hospitals are one of the properties that have a zero-tolerance property. Hospitals are properties that need to be taken very seriously. Make sure the snow and ice removal company you choose understands that, Hospitals cannot even have ¼” of snow. There can be no ice on their blacktop, and it must be visible. Depending on the snowstorm, hospitals often need to get serviced daily. Letting any snow or ice build-up puts many people at risk.

When you have people and vehicles coming into your parking lot that are high risk, you need to make sure they stay safe. If someone arrives at the hospital in crutches, the ground must be clean and free of ice for that the crutches to get inside safely. A simple patch of ice can cause a slip and fall, potentially furthering their injury as well as the risk of a lawsuit. The same idea goes for emergency vehicles. If they cannot get in or out, there are lives at risk. Hiring a reliable snow removal company is something that should be at the top of your priority list. The last thing hospitals want is to worry about more emergencies than they are already dealing with.

parking lot with snow and equipment plowing it


Schools are another zero-tolerance property. Just like hospitals, the parking lot needs to be free of snow and ice. Students and staff must be able to enter and leave campus without slipping and falling. Children are often not as careful as adults. Even though they tend to have more durable bones than adults, children can still be susceptible to nasty slip and falls.

Schools often have higher budgets but still have a budget to follow. They tend to use a hybrid approach, a snow and ice removal company for the parking lot and use the school maintenance people to tackle the sidewalks. This saves money but still allows for a professional to handle the big stuff.


On the other side of the spectrum are multifamily properties. These properties usually require a 2” trigger. Multifamily properties often have tight budgets. They cannot pay for a snow removal company to come out every time there is snow. It can be a balancing act for the organization. Spend too much, and you can be left with not enough money when the next storm hits. Don’t spend enough, and you are putting residents at risk. Keeping to a budget while also maintaining residents safe can be a complicated process. It is crucial to work with snow and ice services companies who have a lot of experience working with Multifamily associations.

mostly plowed post office parking lot


Banks sit right in the middle. Their trigger is often 1”. Like hospitals and schools, there are places that must be clear of ice and snow, the biggest being the ATM. The 1” trigger often means a 24/7 service. While there may not be a zero-tolerance trigger, overnight snowfall can quickly accumulate to 1”. If a customer slips in a parking lot, you are again at risk for a lawsuit.

There are many types of properties that have different triggers. The key is finding the right amount for you. Think about access, who is going to be using the parking lot, and budget. Setting that trigger allows for the removal company to come out at the right time. Without that trigger amount, you could put yourself in a situation where there is too much snow, creating safety issues, or you can end up paying more than you need and that your budget allows

Make sure you and the removal company you choose are on the same page. Coordinating effectively will allow for a smooth snow season without risk of safety and access. As a property owner, HOA head, apartment manager, operations, and any other position that handles safety, you are responsible for securing safety. Especially when it comes to those with a zero-tolerance service. Consider your needs and work with a company that fully understands those needs.

Need help figuring out your needs?  We have over 15 years of snow and ice removal experience helping commercial, residential, and governmental clients. Give us a call, and we can help you create a snow plan and avoid any headaches caused by future snow emergencies.

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Categories: Snow and Ice


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