The District of Columbia, which encompasses Washington DC, has a relatively light (by US standards) average annual snowfall - but has 330 pieces of equipment and 750 personnel available for any given storm.

This includes additional contract ploughs, if necessary, which can be used for "major weather events".

Despite being criticised by president Barack Obama for the closure of his daughters' school last week, the district has a well-developed snow emergency plan to deal with severe weather events.

Among the staff involved are plough drivers, IT support and communications staff, fleet vehicle maintenance workers, call centre operators, salt monitors, command centre staff and quality assurance field teams.

According to the DC website, a declaration of a snow emergency is made no later than 11pm and no earlier than 6am, and is broadcast via radio and television.

Once a snow emergency is declared, residents must immediately relocate any vehicles parked on snow emergency routes, or face having them ticketed and relocated to nearby streets.

Unlike in Ireland, DC says the primary concern in determining priority for snow removal is public safety, including streets that are "narrow, steep, or shaded" which receive "special attention".

"Clearing and salting efforts focus first on major roads, commuter thoroughfares and designated snow emergency routes," it states.

It also notes that a plowing operation uses three times more resources than a salting operation. This is because it takes only one truck to salt each route, but it takes three trucks to plough a route.

"Timely snow removal is one of the primary yardsticks by which residents measure the effectiveness of city service delivery. Even though the district historically receives light/moderate snow (approx 12-15 inches annually), the snow and ice removal function requires a significant number of budget dollars and personnel hours in order to maintain readiness," it notes.

"Heavy snow cities generally have more resources earmarked for snow removal, and often have a full-time coordinator for snow-related operations. [For example] a city like Pittsburgh can receive 45 or more inches of snow per year, making plowing, etc one of the city's core businesses."

District of Columbia law also requires all property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first eight daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling.