February 10, 2022

Preventing and Managing Downed Light Poles During Winter

Front end loader works as a snow plow clearing a parking lot during a winter storm image on Bay Lighting's Maryland commercial lighting website

During the winter, snowplows can easily damage round light poles or even cause them to collapse. Poles can also break and fall due to winter weather. A downed pole can lead to dangerous conditions, such as exposed wires and broken glass. As a commercial property owner, you must be prepared for any winter weather emergency that could jeopardize your staff, tenants, and/or customers. A light pole collapse can also be very costly, and managers should be aware of the risks associated with having weak, out-of-date poles on their property. Fortunately, there are some preventative measures you can take for both new and seasoned poles.

How Does Winter Weather Affect Poles?

While the severity of average winter weather varies by region, it is unpredictable, and a snowstorm can strike at virtually any time in the Mid-Atlantic. High winds, hail, and snow can place a lot of strain on poles, especially if they are older or unstable. Debris and downed tree branches can also lead to pole collapse and power outages. To make matters worse, a parking lot light pole could even fall onto someone’s car in your parking lot, a fence, or a building, leading to costly damage, at the very least. Up-to-date poles can withstand harsh winter conditions much more efficiently. Investing in quality poles is critical when it comes to preventing pole collapse.

Planning Ahead: How Can Poles Be Protected?

In the wintertime especially, poles and pole bases are at-risk of corrosion due to salt. Salt is often essential for keeping parking lots in safe condition for foot traffic, so managers must ensure that the proper type of ice melt is used. Additionally, the proper materials for poles and bolts must be used to ensure poles can withstand wintery conditions. When a light pole’s protective finish has been compromised, snow and ice can also cause the metal to rust. Poles with ground-level rust can break and collapse. Concrete bases may also deteriorate over time and become less stable.

Upgrading to aluminum and fiberglass is a great option for something lightweight, non-corrosive, and rust resistant but more often, steel poles are required for larger-sized poles for optimal strength. Old, rusted anchor bolts, pole fittings, arms, and brackets can break off easily with a little force from a crash or high winds. Upgrading to strong, quality materials for your commercial light poles is important to maintaining a safe parking lot. You will also want to consider upgrading to LED parking lot lights if you have not done so already.

Assess Your Property

There may be some obvious risks, such as loose, hanging, heavy branches near your light poles. It’s recommended to have these trimmed as the buildup of snow and ice can cause these to fall. A plow could also hit one of these trees, causing a branch to damage or knock over nearby light poles. If poles appear bent or discolored, they likely need to be replaced or repaired, as the force from a snowplow or strong winter wind could cause them to fall.

Prepare for Snowplowing

Whether you plow your parking lot yourself or use an outside service, there are certain steps that can be taken to prevent damage to your poles. Consider the following when snowplowing:

  • Use marker posts – Using marker poles to clearly delineate areas you don’t want accessed during snowplowing is a great way to make sure snow piles and ice melt are kept away from your poles. It will also help the driver steer clear of any poles that might not yet have been upgraded to stronger materials.
  • Take photographs – It’s a good idea to take a photo of your lot before it is plowed so you can clearly see the layout. When clearing your lot, it’s advantageous for plow operators to know what’s under the snow and if they haven’t seen your lot in person, a picture can help. You can use photos as documentation in the unfortunate event a pole is damaged.
  • Prioritize sufficient lighting – Since days are shorter during the winter, it is extra important that you can see clearly before plowing. Plow operators work at all hours of the night. Your exterior lights should be functioning at optimal levels so that you can safely plow your lot at any time. The truck you use or your snowplow company uses might be outfitted with LED strobe lights that sufficiently illuminate the parking lot but it’s definitely helpful to have proper parking area illumination in place to help guide the way.

What to Look for in a Snowplow Company – Partner with a Company

The relationship with your snow removal company should be a partnership. Before work is begun, it’s a good idea to discuss expectations you have to keep your lot looking it’s best.

Seasonal Prep Questions to Discuss:

  • Who is responsible for installing marker posts and where should they go?
  • What kind of ice melt are you using and how does that impact the type of poles and pole bases that are at my property?
  • Where will you put the plowed snow?
  • In the event a pole is damaged or downed, who is responsible? Is your operator insured?
  • You can speak with your snowplow service and remind them to be extra aware of any concerns at your property and review this list prior to the first snowfall.

In the event a pole is malfunctioning or broken during the winter, you will want to put a plan in place regarding where to plow snow. In the event that a pole light isn’t working you will want to be able to accommodate service calls where the technician needs to be in close proximity to a pole. It is best to invest in a lasting partnership with a snowplow company you can trust to keep your lot clear and your poles safe.

What Should I Do if My Pole Collapses?

If a pole collapses on your commercial property, assess the situation. Are there live wires or stability concerns? If so, call 911. Some older parking lot light fixtures that have not been upgraded to LEDs may contain substances that could cause harm to people who are exposed to them. Once the debris has been cleared, you will want to contact a commercial lighting company to get started on replacement. Depending on your situation, they can help repair your pole or install a new one.

Consult a Local Commercial Lighting Service

If you have light poles in your parking lot, you will need to assess them with the assistance of a commercial lighting service. They can help you determine which light poles are older and more prone to collapse, as well as the types of light pole maintenance services you need. They can also help you determine ideal placement for all parking lot poles based on a photometric plan and ideal locations at your lot. You will want to work with a quality and experienced lighting company to ensure your light poles are installed with lasting, durable equipment that performs adequately for your specific parking lot.

Contact Us

If you are in need of a commercial parking lot light pole installation, upgrade, or repair, contact Bay Lighting. We can help you identify weak poles, repair damaged ones, and install strong, durable new poles to keep your parking lot safe and well-lit. We serve Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Call (301) 858-9494 today.

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