The right time to activate snow and ice personnel and equipment is an important factor in both safety and budgeting. Activating too much too early can cause unnecessary budgetary expenses, while activating too late can cause safety-related issues. Determining the right time and percentages of personnel and equipment to activate is relative to many factors.
Clear Roads members are interested in answering the following questions.
- How do states determine how many personnel/equipment to activate as the storm approaches?
- What percent activation is utilized during times of borderline temps with wet road conditions?
- Do states utilize storm monitors to relay information to field forces on conditions?
- At what time are the resources secured after an event?
A literature review and a survey of 25 Clear Roads states indicates that most agencies summon half or more of their workforce to come in before a storm arrives. Meteorologists have become increasingly involved in winter maintenance programming, and a broad range of sophisticated systems, weather data and forecast sources are drawn upon in activation decisions, which are usually made at the district or regional level.
Activation and deactivation procedures are data-heavy activities. Many states have specific thresholds (fixed numbers) for air temperature, pavement temperature, precipitation levels and other factors that trigger activation. Decisions about when to deactivate forces (send crews home) tend to be driven by a combination of fixed value thresholds and field observations. Current conditions are given more weight than forecasts, with the significant exception of precipitation forecasts. The increasing role of meteorology in winter maintenance activities suggests they may be becoming more data-driven.