Winter risk management is not just a case of throwing a bit of grit onto a solid surface in the hope that no-one will slip over in icy weather. A huge amount of state-of-the-art technology is involved in Ice Watch’s mission to ensure car parks, paths and estate roads remain slip free, but only when inclement weather is likely.
The specialist’s in-house team and 115 operators who cover more than 1,200 sites across mainland Britain are all connected to an app which ensures salt is administered to the right sites at the right time.
Senior operations manager Michael Jay and his operations team mastermind the logistics of the precision service countrywide. He explained the intricacies of ensuring customers can be confident that when they arrive at work in the morning they don’t need to worry that they may slip and fall – or worse still that their clients, employees or colleagues will do so.
“We have an in-house system and smartphone application which not only confirms the sites to be serviced, it confirms salt levels needed to be used for correct application for the site and the forecasted weather.
“We have comment boxes on the app in which our operators must record any relevant data, for example extra salt to be used due to puddles on site, access or security issues. The sole aim of these comments is for early notification of any issues so that we can be proactive with our customers and address issues first thing next day.
“We have daily meetings at which we go through all the operator comments, raise them with the appropriate customer and operator and resolve them prior to the next visit.
“We receive the forecast at 12 noon and then confirm which sites have triggered for servicing based on the temperature and frost, ice or freezing rain or snow risk. We then inform the customer that their sites have triggered and that we will be attending for gritting. We also give them a brief description of the risk, for example that a frost is forecast between 4 and 7am.
“We then inform the operators that they are out gritting tonight, and we list the sites on their app. We tell them which sites need servicing, what level of salt to apply and what times they can go out based on the forecast, as it needs to be prior to any potential frost or ice.
“They have to confirm all the jobs on their app and this is the formal acceptance of instruction. Each operator has been trained on their equipment, so they are fully aware of the different settings for grit application based on our instructions.
“Customers have until 5pm to cancel the service and all cancellations are communicated to the appropriate operating teams and removed from their app so not to cause any confusion.
“The operating teams then attend each site ensuring that they have enough salt and have the correct equipment to perform their roles. Each operator has a gritting map for each site and a tracking phone which plots their course on each visit. They then apply the salt through their pedestrian or trailed units following this gritting plan. They record any issues, salt usage and the completion of their sites, This data is transferred in a live status to the system via their smartphones.”
The app is just one piece of modern technology used in ensuring Ice Watch can offer the best possible service to its customers.
Its partnership with the BBC’s global weather forecaster, Meteo Group, also involves high level tech. Its phalanx of state-of-the-art computers provides a live weather radar feed which helps Ice Watch’s in-house meteorologist Timo Strom calculate exactly where snow and ice are likely to land.
He explained: “Meteo Group gives us live road temperatures around the UK and visual aids such as graphs including 15-day and 30-day ensemble forecasts. We also receive detailed road surface temperature forecasts eight days in advance across all of our sites, helping us prepare for any cold spells.
“Customers will also be able to prepare in advance for the impact of inclement weather. And the supercharged new forecasts help us make more accurate decisions. We have human interference both from Meteo Group when delivering the forecast and ourselves when deciding to grit or not.
“Rather than importing the forecast into a computer and letting it make the decisions, we use our experience and expertise to provide customers with a quality service.”
Additionally, Ice Watch’s pedestrian workforce is equipped with GPS tracking – something Ice Watch believes is unique in the industry.