While floods affecting the Midlands, the north of England and Wales have had a devastating impact on residents and their homes, they have also presented a challenge to Ice Watch gritting teams.
February, with its storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge was, in fact the wettest February since records began in 1862 and the fifth wettest month overall since that date, with some parts of the UK seeing rainfall four times the monthly average.
But the company’s in-house meteorologist Timo Strom says that while operating teams faced flooded roads in these areas the extreme weather didn’t prevent them from carrying out vital gritting work.
Ice Watch’s thorough planning and in-house training play a big part in ensuring operations run smoothly – even when the weather doesn’t play ball.
Senior operations manager Michael Jay and his operations team mastermind the logistics of the precision service countrywide.
Its 115 operators cover more than 1,200 sites across mainland Britain – and a combination of training, smartphone technology, a partnership with the BBC’s weather forecaster MeteoGroup and clear planning all ensure customers can enjoy a slip free offering.
“It is vital for us to have every step clearly defined, communicated, trained, applied and ultimately achieved. We have detailed operator roadshows which all operators and operating teams must attend. These are vital in reviewing last year’s work and performances and setting out new policies, new systems, new targets and new improvements. These must also highlight clearly both the customers’ expectations on our service levels but also our expectations on our operators,” explained Michael.
“We discuss at length the importance of site tracking which covers every site and as a company we have daily audits of the sites to ensure the tracking data is 100% accurate to the gritting plan that the customers have asked us to service. With instant feedback we can rectify any issues quickly.
“We also train and re-train on the in-house system and smartphone application. This app 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 are a 24/7 operation and provide an emergency operation line providing support to the operators out in the field. This allows for quick resolutions or instructions to the operating teams.”
The rest of March looks slightly less meteorologically challenging, according to Timo who says it should turn drier and more settled over the second half of the month, especially over the southern half of the UK. It will be cooler and more unsettled over the North where any clear skies make frosty nights a possibility – so no rest for the Ice Watch planning and gritting teams!