Smart Snow Removal Practices for Parking Garages

snow parking garageBy Scott C. Bauman, CAPP

With winter at our doorsteps, let’s take this opportunity to review some best practices and procedures for managing snow events and snow removal operations for parking garages.

  • Do not store large piles of snow on the roof of a garage. Large/heavy piles of snow can quickly exceed the live load limits of the structure.
  • Remove snow piles from the garage and perform other snow pile mitigation operations (snow melt machines, hauling, over-the-side dumping, etc.) between snow events.
  • Vehicle snowplows must use a urethane or a heavy rubber plow cutting edge–no metal or steel blades!
  • The snow removal contractor must be aware of the locations of all expansion joints and protruding curbs. Place cones/traffic control devices to mark and identify their locations to avoid damage.
  • Plowing should be done away from expansion joints, not on or across them, to avoid blade contact (and damage) with the joint.
  • The snow removal contractor should always (if possible) plow the snow to sun-exposed corners/areas (and other pre-determined locations) of the garage that ideally have floor drains nearby.
  • Keep floor drains and catch basins clear of snow and ice at all times.
  • Prohibit vehicles (including the snow removal contractor) with studded snow tires and tire chains, as these items can cause damage to concrete, expansion joints, and traffic coating systems.
  • Continually evaluate all areas of the garage during snow events, especially entry/exit lanes and exposed stairwells. Blow-in snow and accumulation throughout the garage will need to be assessed and maintained. Pedestrian routes require continuous attention. Deploy caution signage/devices as needed.
  • If a snow event is expected to be of small accumulation and warmer temperatures are forecast to immediately follow, consider (only if operationally possible) closing the roof to all vehicle/pedestrian operations in advance of the storm and allow the fallen snow to remain and melt in place–do not plow it. This reduces plowing expenses and prevents/reduces snow piles, allowing the fresh snow to melt faster.
  • No deicing agents work in extremely cold temperatures. In frigid temperatures, use sand on icy surfaces to improve traction.
  • Only use garage-friendly anti-icing agents such as sodium acetate, potassium acetate, and calcium magnesium acetate in advance of an approaching snow/ice event. Never use sodium chloride, calcium chloride, ammonium nitrate, or ammonium sulfate in a garage! This is not a complete list of prohibited products–only a list of the most common products. Field verify the deicing agents used by your snow removal contractor. The most widely used and commercially sold deicing agent is sodium chloride (rock salt). This product should never be used in a garage. Please be mindful of its extensive availability and use.

Scott C. Bauman, CAPP, is manager of parking and mobility services with the City of Aurora, Colo.