It's still warm in many parts of the United States, but for businesses operating retail locations, this is the time of year to start thinking about the winter — specifically about how snow and ice will be managed.

While a white winter sounds great, it can be a burden for those in charge of facility maintenance. Snow can wreak havoc on your property, causing damage to your parking lot and hurting your curb appeal, as well as posing a safety hazard for patrons.

Let's drill down into these important areas and then review how to create a snow management plan that will ease the burden in the coming months.

Customer safety

Ice can create a serious danger for customers as they navigate your property. It is critical to address slippery surfaces to reduce the likelihood of a slip-and-fall accident. Not only are these incidents horrific in that they harm your customers, but they can also lead to financial loss if your business is held liable.

Walkways, parking lots and other outdoor areas on the property must be clear of snow and ice to eliminate hazardous conditions for customers and reduce your company's liability.

Protection of parking lot

Parking lots can be damaged when snow and ice sit too long on the asphalt. Removing it quickly can reduce the chances of the freezing-and-thawing cycle causing damage to the parking lot's surface.

However, you have to be cautious in how you remove the snow. A snowplow is a great tool for snow removal, but if the driver is inexperienced, loose objects and debris can be pushed along that could result in cracks in the asphalt. Blades are sharp enough to gouge or scratch the pavement, so take special care when using a plow. Also, deicing agents, such as rock salt, should be used wisely, as they can damage cement and asphalt.

Curb appeal

If you have lived anywhere that drops to freezing temperatures, you are aware how quickly a beautiful white blanket of snow can turn ugly and dirty. Curb appeal is something to keep in mind during the winter months, as you want your facility to be inviting to patrons.

Not only can snow become unsightly, it can also become unpleasant, as people have to trudge through a snow drift or walk through a puddle of slush to get into the building. Snow can also build up in trees, causing branches to break and further litter the property (and damage the landscape).

The snow management plan

Besides calling a snow removal company every time a storm hits, what else can be done to manage the snow and ice? Ideally, you should start developing a snow management plan now, so you know how you will handle snowfall.

It starts with choosing the right vendor, but it goes beyond that. You should coordinate with the snow removal company to determine how and when services are ordered, the type of removal services that will be provided such as ice control, plowing or salting and how all of your properties will be covered if a storm arrives. Ideally, you should also determine how meteorological data will be monitored, so crews are ready to take action as soon as the first snow falls.

Once you get a snow management plan in place, you can have peace of mind knowing your customers will be safer, your parking lot will be protected and your curb appeal will stay beautiful.