Nov 2010

Preparing for Winter Weather

A common misconception is that property losses due to winter weather only occur in regions where harsh winters are the standard. Actually, areas that don’t usually have severe weather suffer larger and more costly losses, because these areas haven’t properly prepared for harsh weather.

Some of the most obvious concerns of winter weather are freeze-ups of equipment and automatic sprinkler systems. While roof collapse is an exposure that is often overlooked, a collapsed roof can damage not only the roof and structure of the facility but also the equipment or storage in that area. Roof collapse usually occurs from ice/snow build up or ponding water. A common area for a roof collapse is at the point where the roof and the wall join on buildings with multi-level roofs and drifting snow accumulates on the lower roof areas. Areas where snow can build up or areas with ponding water should be evaluated prior and during any severe winter weather. Also, areas with the potential to drop in temperature should be evaluated for the possibility of freeze-ups prior to severe winter weather.

The following is a list of precautionary measures that can be taken to help protect facilities from the exposures associated with winter weather:

  • Establish an Emergency Action Plan and educate all employees associated with this plan as to their responsibilities.
  • Maintain at least a minimal staff of employees around the clock during severe winter weather to monitor conditions and take appropriate actions if necessary.
  • Have snow removal crews keep roads, doorways, control valves, Fire Department Connections (FDC), and roofs (if drifting snow loads exceed designated capacity) clear of snow and ice.
  • Building temperatures should be maintained at a minimum of 40°F (4°C).
  • Dry-pipe sprinkler systems should be serviced to ensure water is not present in the piping.
  • If sprinkler water supplies are provided by an outdoor water tank, the water temperature should be monitored to avoid freeze-up.
  • Make sure all fire hydrants are fully closed and that they are marked properly in the event of heavy snow fall.
  • Obtaining supplemental fuel and power supplies should be considered in the event of loss of power or fuel supply.

Emergency action plans should be developed and implemented for all facilities in areas with temperate winters even if several years may pass without severe winter weather, or your facility is in an area not usually prone to freezing.