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December 2009: Preventing and Responding to Freeze-Ups

Freeze-ups can cause damage to your site's buildings, operations and fire protection equipment. Here are some basic items that can help prevent and control that damage.

Have a winterization plan in place. Review it well in advance of the onset of cold weather. Winterization needs to be considered when change is planned and implemented at your site. Specific processes involving winterization are further discussed below.

Human Element

Have your Emergency Response Plan (ERP) include a plan relating to freeze-ups:

Construction

Provide heat for buildings of at least 40°F, especially areas where wet-pipe sprinkler systems are provided. Monitor building temperatures during cold weather, with alarms for low temperatures. Ensure that the heat generating equipment is checked prior to and during cold weather.

The roof should be checked prior to the start of cold weather for any signs of structural weakness and repairs should be made as needed. Drains should be cleared during and after snowfalls to ensure obstructions do not occur.

Necessary openings to the outside should be provided with doors with self-closing hardware.

Site Occupancy

Use heat- or steam-tracing equipment for items exposed to potential freezing such as pipes, equipment and instrumentation. Have the tracing equipment checked prior to cold weather with regular follow-up checks during the cold weather.

Insulate process lines and boiler feedwater pipes that are exposed.

Provide air-drying equipment for air compressors. Provide low-point drains on the distribution lines and drain them to remove condensation on a regular basis.

Ensure that there are alternative fuels available, such as heating/processing units that can use natural gas and fuel oil. Ensure that alternative sources for the fuels are available. Ensure that the controls for alternative fuels are operational prior to cold weather (some sites run the equipment with the alternative fuel for a day on a recurring basis).

Ensure that passive protection against freezing is in place on building structures. Doors and windows should close tightly. Any unnecessary openings should be sealed. Use insulation (preferably noncombustible) in applicable areas to augment heating systems.

Any cooling towers and associated piping used as seasonal equipment should be drained prior to cold weather.

Any lubricants used should be suitable for low-temperature conditions.

Fire Protection Systems

Provide heating for fire pump rooms (minimum 70°F where diesel engines are used, minimum 40°F otherwise). Suction lines from open water sources should be below the frost line (underground and in the water). Provide and maintain circulation heat pumps for suction and gravity tanks.

Keep external fire protection equipment (hydrants, hose houses, pump connections, control valves and sectional valves) free of ice and snow. Any dry barrel hydrants should drain completely after any use.

Provide maintenance of dry-pipe sprinkler systems:

Liquid-based hand held extinguishers should be kept in heated areas.

Risk Logic can provide help in identifying areas at your site where winterization may be needed.