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PennDOT Work Smart 'Smart Practice': District 5’s Snow Fighters Handbook and Winter Checklist

February 25, 2021 07:00 AM
By: PennDOT Bureau of Innovations

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​Northampton County's Senior Maintenance Manager Rodney Vanscavish isn't one to leave things to chance, especially when it comes to being prepared for winter weather.

First, he created a winter checklist to help ensure his team is ready for that first snowfall. The checklist covers everything from preparing equipment and supplies at stockpiles to updating plow routes and emergency contact information.

Beginning in September, the list is reviewed weekly at staff meetings, identifying what needs to be done, who is responsible for each task, and making sure it is all completed by winter.

Then, Vanscavish created the Snow Fighters Handbook for operators, foremen and assistant county managers. Each handbook contains phone numbers, fueling station locations, route maps, directions and simple answers to every imaginable question from handling irate customers to the amount of salt needed in a snowstorm.

Those, too, are updated every fall, and placed in every snow removal vehicle.

"At the time I created the checklist, I was fairly new to the county manager position and was looking for an at-a-glance task list to help prepare for winter," Vanscavish said. When he couldn't find one, Vanscavish said, "I decided to create my own."

That was about nine years ago, Vanscavich said, and over the years, items have been added to improve it.

As for the handbook, Vanscavich said, this, too, was created out of an organizational necessity.

 "There were certain required items being placed in each truck as loose copies," Vanscavish said. "Once I saw all the loose documentation being placed in trucks in an unorganized manner with the potential of being lost and/or damaged, I came up with the idea to make a handbook bound under one cover. The handbook is reviewed and updated yearly to include the most current information."

"The Snow Fighters Handbook has been extremely useful for the operators because it contains everything needed for snow removal," according to Scott Nicholas, Northampton County's roadway programs coordinator. "Any questions can usually be answered by checking the handbook."

"If an employee needs to help in another section because of an emergency," Nicholas said, "the operator can use the handbook to follow the route."

Nicholas said Vanscavish thought "the checklist would be a great way to track the important tasks and to make sure everything is completed before the winter season. The winter checklist keeps all the important prep work organized so nothing is forgotten."

"The Snow Fighters Handbook is an essential tool in fighting winter weather," said Chris Rauch, Northampton County's transportation equipment operator specialist.

Over the years, other counties within District 5 have adopted the handbook concept, Vanscavish said, and it has been shared with leadership at Central Office.

District 5 shared this smart practice through PennDOT WorkSmart, an online system, accessible 24/7, that provides all PennDOT employees with a forum to share their smart practices, or things they are already doing as part of their normal work day, with their fellow PennDOT employees.

To view this or other smart practices, or if you have a smart practice you'd like to share, visit PennDOT WorkSmart

PennDOT WorkSmart is administered by PennDOT's Bureau of Innovations (BOI).  For more information, contact

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