Table of contents
When it comes to taking care of our communities, the responsibility of safeguarding against severe weather events rests heavily on the shoulders of our governing bodies. Whether it’s clearing roads or securing power lines, proactive preparedness is key to operational success and seasonal safety.
We’ve already begun to see an increase in extreme weather, and we all need to be prepared for what that might look like. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
“From December through February [2023-2024], NOAA predicts wetter-than-average conditions for northern Alaska, portions of the West, the southern Plains, Southeast, Gulf Coast and lower mid-Atlantic and drier-than-average conditions across the northern tier of the U.S., especially in the northern Rockies and High Plains and near the Great Lakes.”
Wherever you fall on the map, these predictions can help you better prepare for what your area may face as winter trickles in. For example, a wetter winter in the south might mean better drainage and road cleaning is in order, while a dry winter in colder climates can’t rule out strong cold fronts or sudden storms.
In any case, if history has taught us anything, it’s that we should be prepared for anything.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the specifics of what winter preparations should look like, tools to stay organized, and how you might bolster your municipality’s resilience against winter weather. From snow-proofing buildings to preparing for colder weather, let’s discover what more can be done to fortify our communities and safeguard assets, equipment, structures, and, ultimately, citizens.
Preparing for winter weather: What’s involved?
There’s plenty to do across a county or city when it comes to seasonal change, especially preceding winter. Winter often brings severe weather, and as a result, sometimes causes damage and puts buildings or equipment at risk. Plus, with the change in temperature, there’s a change in need. Indoor spaces see more use, and outdoor spaces need to be secured against high winds, extreme cold, and heavy snow. To properly prep for winter, consider the following:
Road maintenance should begin well ahead of the winter months, especially in areas where snow and ice are common and heavy. Ideally, potholes will be filled, and any repairs will be handled while the weather is fair to guarantee crews can focus on winter preparedness in fall months rather than last-minute fixes.
Thorough street cleaning, like clearing leaves and debris and street sweeping, can also help prepare roads for oncoming weather and prevent build-up and hazardous obstacles.
Forge strong collaborations with local road maintenance teams in preparation for winter road conditions. Develop a coordinated snow plowing and removal plan, prioritizing main roads, access points, and emergency routes to maintain community mobility.
Implement anti-icing strategies to prevent ice formation on roads before storms hit. This proactive approach minimizes the need for excessive salt use and reduces environmental impact. You might also explore alternative de-icing materials for a more sustainable approach.
Regular roof maintenance is non-negotiable. Inspect for damaged shingles, clean gutters to prevent ice dams, and schedule routine inspections to identify potential issues before they escalate.
When snow begins to fall, it should be removed quickly whenever possible. The accumulation of snow can be exceedingly heavy and may cause cave-ins in some cases or, more commonly, dangerous snowfalls as they begin to melt.
Conduct thorough winterization checks for municipal vehicles, especially snowplows, tow trucks, and other necessary equipment. Inspect tire tread, antifreeze levels, wiper blades, and battery health. Equip vehicles with emergency kits for unforeseen situations and train drivers on safe winter driving practices. Also, be sure to store your vehicles at accessible locations, and keep extra gas on hand.
Critical equipment protection
Identify critical equipment and infrastructure vulnerable to severe weather. Implement protective measures, such as the construction of elevated platforms for sensitive equipment in flood-prone areas, or installing surge protectors to safeguard against electrical damage.
See that generators are well-maintained to provide power during outages. Regular testing, fuel level checks, and the assurance of backup fuel supplies are crucial for sustained essential services during storms. Ensure generators are available at evacuation centers, hospitals, schools, and other essential spaces in case of severe weather emergencies.
For more on the use of emergency generators, check out our Emergency Generator Service Checklist.
Review emergency plans
Equip municipal buildings with well-stocked emergency kits. Blankets, flashlights, batteries, first aid supplies, and non-perishable food items should be readily available. Regularly check and update these kits to ensure they’re prepared for any winter scenario.
Moreover, make sure emergency plans are updated and shared with all relevant government employees, local businesses, law enforcement, emergency response teams, and citizens. Practice drills should be held where appropriate, and concerns should be addressed immediately.
Interior building preparations
Ahead of winter, conduct a meticulous inspection of your municipal buildings, inside and out. Identify and seal any gaps or cracks that may compromise insulation, like weatherstripping, check windows for damage, and assess HVAC equipment, boilers, water heaters, and other essential equipment.
Outside of structural protections, you should also clean and prepare these communal spaces for more regular use, knowing that cold weather will drive up their use.
Recording your winter prep plan
Whether sparse or thorough, chances are your governing body already has a written winterization plan. Even if you have an unspoken system in place, take stock of what you already have recorded, what instructions you follow, and the practices already in place to prepare your city, county, or state for the coming cold. Then, look for what isn’t there.
Where can your plan be improved? What isn’t specified? Is there a central hub that stores and tracks all of the information about your winter protocols? Do the workers and crews carrying out these maintenance tasks know where to find this information, and do they have the ability to send updates to the relevant parties?
The key to an efficient winterization process is a clear understanding of specific responsibilities, timelines, measurables, budget, and expected results. This might be achieved through a spreadsheet (or series of spreadsheets) or a written manual, but more likely, it is recorded and tracked via software.
Using FMX for municipality winter preparation planning
Severe weather preparedness is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of your community. By storing your winterization efforts in government asset management software, like FMX, you can gain complete oversight and transparency to further improve your processes.
Use maintenance management features to capture internal and citizen work requests and schedule preventive maintenance. Track and locate assets and view asset history, changes, and other records through asset management, and take advantage of inventory management features to track incoming and outgoing supplies, inventory usage, shipments, and place requests.
By implementing a new, comprehensive system for your municipality’s winter preparations, you’ll harness full control over your asset and equipment care and maintenance. You’re not just preparing for the next storm—you’re laying the foundation for resilience and swift recovery.
At FMX, we hope you stay vigilant, stay safe, and face severe weather challenges with confidence.