Waking up to freshly fallen snow is enchanting to a child. For adults, that magic is somewhat lessened by the fact that all that snow has to be cleared from cars, porches, driveways and sidewalks. For those living in the City of Portland, that chore takes on a sense of urgency due to the city Snow Removal Ordinance. According to the ordinance as found on the city website, “It shall be unlawful for the owner of any property abutting any sidewalk of the city to fail to remove any accumulations of snow or ice within ten hours after the cessation of the cause of the accumulation of snow or ice.”
According to Portland City Manager, Tutt Gorman, “The City of Portland is a ‘walkable community’ and....making sure the sidewalks are clear of snow and passable are required by City ordinance and in keeping with the walkability factor.” According to the ordinance, if snow is not removed within 10 hours, it may be removed by city employees and the service assessed to the property owner. Gorman says that doing so, “...is very rare, but a necessary enforcement mechanism. The City makes extra efforts to work with property owners.” “Moreover,” says Gorman, “our sidewalks are frequently used by children as school routes and individuals with disabilities, further heightening our civic duty and awareness.”
Children aren’t the only ones who rely on clear sidewalks. Another group of citizens especially affected are those on the job. In a statement to the media in mid-December, US Postal Service spokesperson Elizabeth Najduch reminded postal customers that, “Snow and ice make delivery dangerous and slow. Maintaining a clear path to the mailbox – including steps, porches, walkways and street approach – will help letter carriers maintain consistent delivery service…”
The hazard isn’t limited to postal workers. According to a report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan workers suffered over 2000 injuries related to ice, sleet or snow in 2014 alone. A slip on the sidewalk may not sound like a serious problem, but on average those type of injuries resulted in an average of eleven days off from work.
The Portland Area Fire Authority reminded the public in post they shared from the Bath Township Police Department on their Facebook page that clear walkways, “...makes it much safer for us to carry you or your loved on a stretcher if you wind up needing [an] ambulance.”
While you are outside shoveling, is also helpful to emergency personnel to clear a three-foot radius around the fire hydrant near your home. Nobody likes thinking that they or their neighbor could need the services of the fire department, but if you do, you don’t want a few extra minutes being spent digging out the fire hydrant. So, the next time you look out the window and see snow on the walk, bundle up, grab your shovel and dig in, because your neighbors are counting on you.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story attributed the quote on safety for first responders to a recent Facebook post by the Portland Area Fire Authority (PAFA). The quote was actually from a 2016 post PAFA shared from the Bath Township Police Department. Also, while PAFA does work alongside the Portland Ambulance Department, they do not provide ambulance services. The story has been edited to accurately reflect these facts. The author deeply regrets these errors and any confusion they may have caused.