DGS is responsible for maintaining all city buildings and fleet—next time you’re out, look out for all of the cars on the road with a Baltimore City logo on the side or a building with a city seal. During an expected snowstorm both our Fleet and Facilities divisions ramp up their preparations to keep the buildings clear of snow and ice, and the city’s vehicles on the roads to treat and plow snow.
At Fleet Management, a swift activation means long shifts of 12 to 16 hours and a variety of work. Today, there are more trucks on the street plowing than in past years, but that also means more trucks are in the shops. Each shift is unique, the mechanics never know what will come into the shop. The problems can vary greatly, from leaks, spinning spreader engine failures, tires, augers, and hydraulics to electrical and truck body repairs. Back in the 1970s, the City did not have a system in place for preventative maintenance during the snow season. The day before a snow storm, trucks and vehicles would be lined up from the Dickman Street Central Garage to Hanover Street for snow maintenance. More recently, Fleet has begun preparing the snow vehicles in July. A large part of the success of Fleet during snow activations is the input of the mechanics. Small changes like placing certain wires on opposite sides of a plow as to not mix them up, or using male and female parts on plugs as to not accidentally connect the wrong wires have made the work easier and quicker. During the 2016 snow storms, Fleet mechanics created a mobile diagnostic testing cart. It worked so well that each bay now uses the cart to perform work all year long. These types of advancements have improved operations in the shops significantly. The shops used to average 75-80 open tickets on a shift, now, with the new tools and systems in place, open tickets average 30-35.
The Facilities Maintenance Division prepares for snow removal as well. New brine spreaders make a huge difference in the pretreatment of sidewalks and steps and are much more environmentally friendly, using about one quarter the amount of salt when compared to previous spreaders. Facilities Maintenance possesses about 15 of the new spreaders and the staff was trained in their use and repair by Fleet personnel. Facilities Maintenance takes an all hands on deck approach to snow removal. This year, all the downtown and shop staff will report to remove the snow from around the downtown campus buildings. Additionally, Facilities will have contractors at police stations and multi-purpose centers across the city removing and plowing snow. If snow is in the forecast, crews will pretreat the sidewalks with brine the evening prior to the expected snow. Depending on the storm, preparations can go around the clock and removal continues until everything is cleared. However, prior to beginning, staff are encouraged to warm-up by stretching. DGS employees in both Fleet Management and Facilities Maintenance are always prepared for snow events. Without their hard work, the plows wouldn’t be able to clear the streets, employees wouldn’t be able to gain access to buildings, and the entire city would grind to a halt.