by Jon M. Casey
While it might seem to have been held out of place, the American Public Works Association’s (APWA) 2013 North American Snow Conference convened in Charlotte, North Carolina’s Convention Center April 7-10, where municipal representatives from across the U.S. came together to learn more about how to manage snow removal on city streets and highways across the nation. Dealing with emergency snow removal and the traffic issues that go along with winter’s snowfalls, lead the way during an opening session panel discussion, hosted by moderator, David L. Bergner, PWLF, Monte Vista Associates, LLC, Mesa AZ.
In this discussion, panelists, Capt. J. Thomas Martin, Operations Program coordinator, I-95 Corridor Coalition, Williamsburg, VA; Brian R. Usher, PWLF, director of Public Works, City of Largo, Largo, FL; Kimberly C. Vasconez, MPA, team leader, DOT/FHWA, Washington, DC and Christine Walsh, director of Operations, City of Beloit, Beloit, WI recalled how they, in the past, have prepared and responded to emergencies of various kinds, including snowfall events. Walsh said that because they consider themselves first responders, they work to protect people in their community, and they help the other disciplines in their community by keeping the roadways open so that those first responders are able to do their jobs more effectively as well.
Brian Usher explained why they use an incident command center, so that everyone is “speaking the same language” when it comes to managing situations. Kimberly Vasconez said that even the simplest things are important when it comes to preparedness. For example, making certain that all of the snow removal crews are up to date on their annual flu shots will help keep attendance up during bad weather. That will provide the needed extra workforce that comes along with snow removal activities during extended snow events. More importantly, incident management is all about relationships.
Recalling a recent 95 car pileup in a dense fog on Interstate 77 at Fancy Gap, Capt. Martin, who works with the I-95 coalition, said that in many cases, events take place in areas where there are not a lot of resources to deal with the situation. At times, responders need to be creative in dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophe. In the case of this traffic incident, local towing companies were not sufficient to clear the roadway, so construction equipment was called upon to remove damaged vehicles as an added resource. Even so, it still took more than 8 hours to clear the roadway so that traffic could resume.
During the three day show, public works people were able to learn about everything from how far salt bounces when it is dropped upon an icy roadway, to how to remove tree debris following a major snow storm. Dozens of seminars presented topics like weather forecasting, fleet management and implementing new technologies. They gave attendees opportunity to learn how to do a better job when they returned to their respective communities. There was even a presentation on how a city fought an historic flood in the midst of a snowstorm. Hearing how city workers and volunteers worked together to fight the blizzard and floodwaters that ravaged Fargo, ND, gave attendees a better idea of how the National Incident Management system worked for Fargo.
Following two days of seminars and trade show adventures, attendees gathered for the closing general session to hear Keynote Speaker, Jeff Hammond talk about what it takes to persevere during difficult times. Hammond, as crew chief for NASCAR’s Darrell Waltrip, together they won 43 races and two championships. Since his retirement from active racing in 2000, Hammond joined Fox Sports to serve as commentator at televised race events. During his presentation, Hammond talked about the challenges that teams face when attempting to win races. In like fashion, public works officials have equally challenging jobs to do to take care of snow events, keeping the workers safe and the citizenry safe as well.
As an added feature to this year’s events, three technical tours were offered on Wednesday, giving attendees the opportunity to visit one of three venues during the morning schedule. The Charlotte Street Maintenance Facility, a modern technologically equipped yard built in 2006, featured their division’s snow fighting equipment and the 5000 ton salt storage building with its highly effective salt brining manufacturing system, capable of storing 10,000 gallons of salt brine and 5,000 gallons of calcium chloride. With more than 5,200 lane miles of city roadway, Charlotte has more than 6,200 pieces of rolling and non-rolling stock used throughout the city and county.
A second tour was to the Michael Waltrip Racing Shop in Cornelius, NC. There, visitors were able to tour the 11 acre site that is home to three Sprint Cup race teams: Clint Bowyer’s No. 15, Mark Martin’s No. 55 and Martin Truex Jr’s. No. 56. In the 140,000-square-foot facility, visitors were able to see the inner workings of the various production areas that work together to make hand built racing machines that these teams field every week.
For those who did not attend either of the first two tours, a trip to the Daimler Freightliner Truck plant in Mt. Holly, NC offered a fascinating guided tour of one of the most efficient truck assembly plants in the world. Home to the assembly of Freightliner’s M2 medium duty trucks, APWA members were able to see how a myriad of purpose built trucks were built, from the frame up. Readers of Hard Hat News will enjoy detailed coverage of this tour in the September “Truck” issue of HHN available the first week of September.
Readers who are looking to attend the APWA North American Snow Conference in 2014, next year’s event will be held at the Duke Energy Center, May 4-7, in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit the APWA website at www.apwa.net/Events .
by Jon M. Casey