Samantha Fry
Samantha Fry Digital and Campaigns Manager
14 Dec 2023

The festive season brings a well-earned break for many businesses. However, for FMs working in the retail industry or front-line services, this time of year may be more demanding. Cold, icy weather conditions, high volumes of traffic, and service users rushing at the last minute, can sometimes cause a holiday that should be full of joy and celebration, to feel more like a holiday from hell.

It is essential to ensure that your facilities' car parks, grounds, and outside spaces are well-prepared to withstand the challenges of the cold months. Maintenance during this season is crucial, not only to keep your property looking its best, but also to ensure the safety, functionality, and accessibility of outdoor areas for employees, customers, and guests. 

As featured in FMJ, here are some essential tips for car parks and facilities, to keep things running smoothly over a frosty festive season and the cold winter months thereafter.

Evaluate Your Grounds
Identify areas that may require special attention during the winter months following:

  • Problematic drainage areas that may lead to ice buildup.
  • Overhanging branches that might pose a risk of falling due to heavy snow or ice.
  • Cracks or damage in pathways and pavements that could become safety hazards.

Tree and shrub maintenance
Trimming and pruning your trees and shrubs is essential before a period of extreme weather sets in. Remove dead or weak branches to prevent them from breaking under the weight of snow or ice, potentially causing damage to your property. Proper pruning also encourages healthy growth in the spring. Trim overhanging branches to prevent them from accumulating heavy snow and potentially damaging vehicles or structures. Additionally, clear leaves and debris from drainage systems to prevent blockages.

Lawn care
Your grass may not grow much during the winter, but it still needs some care to ensure it's healthy when spring arrives. A few steps to take include:

  • Mowing your lawn one final time at a lower setting to prevent snow mold.
  • Raking up fallen leaves and debris to prevent suffocation of the grass.
  • Aeration to improve soil drainage and encourage root growth. 

Winter landscaping
If you want to maintain an attractive appearance during the winter months, consider adding evergreen plants, winter flowers, and seasonal decorations to your outdoor spaces. These touches can enhance the beauty of your grounds and help brighten up a dull January.

Snow and ice management
Snow and ice are common challenges this time of year. Clearing it from walkways, driveways, and parking areas is essential for access to your car park and facilities. Here are some tips for effective snow and ice management:

  • Stock up on de-icing materials such as rock salt or calcium chloride.
  • Invest in snow removal equipment like snow blowers, shovels, and ploughs.
  • Create a snow clearance plan, including designated areas for piling snow.
  • Prioritise high-traffic areas and emergency exits for immediate clearing.
  • Keep walkways and entrances to employees and visitors clear and safe.
  • Invest in services from a reliable gritting company like Ground Control to proactively spread salt on walkways and parking areas to melt ice and improve traction.
  • Invest in a reliable snow ploughing service like Ground Control to clear parking bays and driveways promptly. Regular ploughing prevents the buildup of snow, reducing the risk of accidents.
  • Ensure that your site has grit bins that are well-stocked throughout the season.

Ground Control can help with any or every element of your snow and ice removal plans, from supplying salt and equipment to full, fixed price or pay-as-you-go gritting and snow clearance packages.

Efficient Lighting
The days are shorter during the winter, and proper lighting is crucial for ensuring safety in your car park and facilities. Make sure all exterior lights, including car park and walkway lighting, are in good working condition. Consider upgrading poor-performing lighting to efficient LEDs with daylight detection and motion sensors.

Sustainable heating systems
Maintaining a comfortable indoor environment is essential during the winter. Here are some heating-related tips:

  • Regular HVAC Maintenance: Schedule routine maintenance for your heating system to ensure it's working efficiently. Clean or replace filters, check for leaks, and address any issues promptly.
  • Upgrade and retrofit HVAC systems by changing fossil fuel boilers to air source heat pumps (ASHP), and heat recovery units, or upgrade inefficient motors in air handling units (AHU) to highly efficient low maintenance motors.

Clear drains, gullies, septic tanks
The likes of Storm Babet and Storm Ciran brought much rain and wind to many parts of the UK in 2023, leaving potential for blockages. Nobody wants to be outside rodding in these conditions – except maybe Ground Control? We can support with drain maintenance, unblocking, repairs, gully, culvert and septic tank emptying, and all areas of complex, industrial cleaning.

Regular Inspections
Frequent inspections are vital during the winter season. Regularly check for hazards such as slippery surfaces, damaged infrastructure, and malfunctioning equipment.
Work with a winter maintenance provider that’s available 24/7, so they can deal with issues out of hours, and clear the way for the festive crowds during the day. Know that your provider can be with you in a minimum amount of time, whatever, whenever, wherever; and is available to speak to with you anytime.

Ian Morehouse, Ground Control Winter Maintenance Director said:

Effective communication is key to customer satisfaction and safety, which is our overall priority.

Even on the toughest of days, when we can receive up to 500 calls, we are still able to help and always strive for more. Our success is down to the pre-season planning we conduct, and the dedication and resilience of our local gritting teams who are critical in enabling us to deliver a great service anywhere in the UK.

With our help desk team’s support, our network is designed to provide resilience, so when the weather gets rough, we can still guarantee service.

We are in a unique position at Ground Control to have multiple experts and services all under one umbrella. This year we are working with one of the UK’s largest retailers who already depend on us for both their gritting (including snow and ice management) and grounds maintenance, to extend our services at their headquarters to include drain clearance, to ensure the entire site is winter ready. They have peace of mind that Ground Control, as one supplier, can take care of everything during this incredibly busy time of year.

Another leading supermarket chain that came on board in late 2021, took advantage of our efficient onboarding process which enabled us to mobilise more than 1,000 sites before the run-up to Christmas. Effective communication gave us an in-depth understanding of the client’s challenges and concerns over this crucial period, and we were able to alter our service accordingly to give them that extra peace of mind.

Maintenance of car parks and facilities over Christmas and winter is essential for safety and accessibility. With the right preparations, your business can plough through the chaos and continue to provide a safe and comfortable environment.

A well-maintained exterior not only enhances the overall appeal of your property but also contributes to a safer and more enjoyable environment for all during and after the holiday season.

By taking the time to evaluate your property, perform necessary maintenance tasks, and plan for snow and ice management, you can ensure the safety and functionality of your outdoor areas.

Ground Control can do all this for you. From clearing drains, and replacing lighting and heating to full winter gritting, grounds maintenance or landscaping contracts, we have it covered.

Article adapted from Facilities Management Journal (FMJ). Read the original article, here.

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