Winter weather is around in the corner. Now is the ideal time to prepare and protect your business property against burst pipes, ice build-up and power disruption. Some areas of the United States have already experienced snow and freezing temperatures this year. Property damage losses from snow, ice, freezing and related causes averaged $1.2 billion annually over the past 20 years in the US. Berkley Humans Services would like to share recommendations to keep your property safe and organization operating during winter weather.
What are the hazards?
Frozen and Burst Pipes
Water pipes in the northern US are usually buried below the frost line and enter buildings through a basement. The basement is usually the location of the furnace or other costly building equipment. A pipe break can result in the loss of heat to the building resulting in more complications.
Water pipes the in southern US should be inspected for areas where utility lines penetrate the building, unheated crawl spaces, attics or any other where pipes are exposed to cold air infiltration. Pipes in the South are not always insulated or even located inside the building. Pipe breaks create severe damage to wallboard, appliances and flooring. It is especially important to winter-proof pipes when the building is unoccupied for weekends or holidays when a leak can go undetected for a longer period of time.
Ice, Hail and Snow
Ice, hail and snow on sidewalks and parking lots create driving and slip & fall hazards. Driving in snow and ice is dangerous due to the lack of traction between the tires and ground. Accumulated snow and ice on a roof can exceed 20-25 pounds per square foot, which is a considerable load and can lead to collapse, and costly building repairs. It is important to keep sidewalks and parking lots treated and cleared of snow to prevent driving and slip & fall hazards, and roofs cleared of snow and ice to prevent roof collapse.
Roof mounted cooling units are vulnerable to hail damage. Hail can damage the fan blades, condenser coils and exhaust vents. The addition of hail guards installed on each unit is an easy and inexpensive precaution to hail damage.
Ice and snow collecting on the power lines can cause power outages. Electric power is vital to an organization’s ability to deliver essential services to their customers. Computers, heating, cooking and all building services use electricity to ignite or operate. Every organization needs to have a business interruption plan to address power outages, and get back into business as soon as possible following a power outage.
Use of Alternative Heaters
Fireplaces, solid fuel stoves and electric heaters are effective tools for providing additional warmth to a building or residential facility in cold weather. However, if alternative heaters are used or maintained incorrectly, the results could be fatal. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fact Sheet on US Home Heating Equipment Fires provides sobering facts:
- The top leading factors in home heating fires between 2011-2015 where failure to clean solid fuel heating equipment, primarily chimneys at 28%, mechanical failure or malfunction at 16% and Heaters located too close to combustibles at 15%.
- The nearly half of all home fires occurred in December, January and February peaking between the hours of 5p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Most home heating fire deaths (85%) involved stationary or portable heaters.
*Reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA (2017)
Carbon monoxide is another major hazard to consider when using alternative heating sources. Make sure furnaces, hot water heaters and boilers are maintained and vented as required by the manufacturer and any applicable code or ordinance. Never use a heater which burns a gas or solid fuel in enclosed spaces where the CO in the atmosphere can become dangerously high.
Planning and preparing for winter weather can help mitigate loss for your organization. Please keep these tips in mind as you prepare your organization for winter weather.
Products and services are provided by one or more insurance company subsidiaries of W. R. Berkley Corporation. Not all products and services are available in every jurisdiction, and the precise coverage afforded by any insurer is subject to the actual terms and conditions of the policies as issued.
This information is provided for general educational purposes only. This information is not intended to provide you with legal advice or legal counsel, and is not intended to assure compliance with or complete analysis of any law, rule or regulation. In addition, this information should not be interpreted to imply that all exposures, hazards or loss potentials on any subject or issue were identified or considered. No warranty, or guaranty of accuracy, fitness or suitability, express or implied, is granted with respect to any of the information contained herein.