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Winter is sNOw problem here

Melissa Topey • Jan 13, 2014 at 5:20 PM

Unlike schools and many businesses, Firelands Regional Medical Center simply cannot close down amid subzero temperatures or winter storms.

It’s up to the hospital’s grounds and maintenance crews to keep emergency routes and entrances clear.

“How do you keep warm?” I asked John Buller, grounds supervisor at the hospital.

“You are moving so fast you start sweating,” Buller said. “Layers — layers are very important”

It was Monday morning when I met with Buller and Darrell Boling, director of plant operations, at the hospital. A snowstorm pummeled the area the day before, dumping a few inches of the white fluff on top of a layer of ice. There was more to come in the days that followed.

Up to 10 hospital employees worked 12-hour shifts Sunday, in freezing rain and swirling snow, to keep the parking lots and sidewalks clear. “If they didn’t work getting the slush off, it would have been a mess” Boling said.

When I joined the cleanup crews for an On the Job segment, the temperature was 1 degree below zero. We grabbed shovels and set out to clear sidewalks before throwing down some salt.

“Are you sweating yet?” Boling asked me.

Not a chance.

Buller said he wanted to walk around the building to make sure the entrances and walkways were still clear, but I quickly remembered he had been working earlier on a getting a salt system repaired on a truck, so I suggested we take another whack at fixing that.

Really, I just wanted out of the cold.

We went to the grounds garage, out of the wind, only to discover the salting equipment was still frozen and needed more time to thaw.

“It will be fixed by the afternoon” Buller said. “If it comes down to it, we’ll do it by hand”

Also in the garage was a Bobcat skid-steer, which the crews use to shovel snow out of parking spaces.

I moved over to the Bobcat. “Do you know how to operate one?” Boling asked. “I can run it, sure,” I said. “One winter I ran a county plow” “I’ll move it out of the garage and you can run it” Buller said. After a quick tutorial out in the parking lot, I jumped in. Driving and turning were easy, but it was a bit more difficult using the foot pedals to raise, lower and tip the bucket.

It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I was still able to move some snow from a snow pile. I drove the skid-steer back to the front of the garage, then let Buller park it inside.

“Give me a couple more tries, and I’ll have it” I said.

“See those holes in the ceiling? You did better than some employees” Buller said.

Apparently, the skid-steer also has a forklift attachment.

I felt pretty good about myself as I walked back to the car, colder but confident.

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