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Liquid use barricades

  • Dale Keep
- Posted: November 6, 2017

Lack of training and cost of equipment remain the most common deterrents to the use of liquids as an ice management tool, according to this year’s State of the Industry survey. Many people (myself included) have tried to dispel these myths repeatedly — SIMA has even set up resources to facilitate the implementation. Yet the roadblocks remain. Let’s look again to attempt to break through this time!

Detailed training answering the essential who’s, what’s, why’s and how’s regarding liquid deicers is available. Anecdotal stories and short presentations are helpful; but to fully master successful liquid use, you have to be willing to invest the time.

Detailed training should include classroom exercises that consider weather, level of service (LOS) scenarios and application rates that must be used to achieve LOS. This training takes time and involves learning some basic chemistry. When completed, the attendee will understand how deicers work, how to use them, why they sometimes don’t work as expected and how to establish realistic expectations from their use. The key to this training is to teach attendees how to use deicers effectively and efficiently since over-applying, for example, is no longer acceptable.

In-depth study will include a manual, class exercises and discussion, followed by an open-book written test when completed.

Invest or train first?

To begin using liquid deicers requires an investment. But here’s the question: Does one invest in the education and then the equipment with full understanding, or the equipment first based on anecdotal information or because it appears to be the thing to do? I suggest the training and understanding first. It’s not unlike an owner–operator commercial truck driver, who should get training and a license first since that assures their interest and reduces errors in equipment purchases and their use.

The reason for adding liquids to the toolbox is that they work; they reduce overall deicer use when used in conjunction with solid deicers and plows; and they make you money when used correctly, at the right time, and with a specific goal for that application in mind.

Multiple factors are involved in every deicer application (liquid or solid) that determine its success. By fully understanding how deicers work, only then can application results be judged with reasonable expectations.

Start slow: Three-step process

1. Knowledge: Invest in gaining detailed knowledge involving liquid deicers and their use before making investments and jumping in. Understand the how, when, and why to determine application rates, and the product’s value and limits before you invest in equipment. Once comfortable with your understanding of liquids, move forward. Take small steps to gain experience and knowledge by applying what you learned. To do this, equipment is required; start small and go slow. Like any other investment, it should only be made with an understanding of what’s involved and when a return is expected.

2. Equipment: Buy or rent a small, simple-to-operate liquid deicer applicator. Make sure it will meet your initial needs and that it is calibrated so application rates can be controlled. Documentation is key: You’ll learn by knowing how much was applied and under what conditions. Start by using liquids on one or two small properties. Use your training and documentation to review the success (or failure) of the applications and learn from the results. After you have gained knowledge, you will know what equipment is needed to expand your reach in liquids. If you choose not to proceed, you are not loaded down with unused equipment.

3. Deicer Choice: For initial knowledge-gaining experience, the best liquid to use is the one you can purchase locally for a reasonable price and that does not raise any alarms. Your training should have provided a detailed understanding of deicers, how they work and how to compare them in terms of performance at different temperatures and conditions. Once firsthand knowledge is gained, you can choose the products you feel are best suited for your operations and desired end result.

Once training is completed and experience and knowledge is gained, you will have reached a point where it is time to move forward. You can now do so with confidence, and with an understanding of what you want and need. Do you want a brine maker, or do you want to buy a product ready to use? The knowledge gained from this three-step process will allow you to make those decisions without the huge up-front investment.


Use of liquid deicers is gaining momentum but will never replace solids. An effective, efficient snow and ice control program requires coordinated, proper use of solids and liquids, according to conditions and goals. However, considering the investment required to use liquids is legitimate. Following the three-step process will minimize the initial investment.

My last article talked about purchase price vs. cost; investing in liquids is no different. The price of adding liquids to the toolbox is there and will be determined by your needs. However, without making training and equipment investments, no return on that investment can be appreciated. Also, the cost of not using liquids will typically be greater than the purchase price of adding them to your toolbox. Once the tool is understood and used at the right time in the right way with specific goals in mind and with reasonable expectations, it not only helps the environment, but will put profits into your pocket.

State of the Industry 2017

  • 66% - Respondents who did not use liquids in their 2016-17 operations.
  • 63% - Of those respondents who use liquids, applying directly to the pavement pre-storm was the most common method.


Dale Keep owns Ice & Snow Technologies, a training and consulting company based in Walla Walla, WA. Email him at

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