Plumb Safety: Winter Preparedness

Be Prepared for Winter Weather

Foul weather conditions can hinder a business any time of year, whether high heat keeps customers away, fire threatens your property or snow stresses your roof. As we settle into the cold weather season here in the Northeast, we encourage you to pause and consider the threats to your insureds’ business posed by cold, snow and ice—and how they can mitigate those threats.

The heating system is a primary concern for many in cold climates, for obvious reasons. Not only does it make life more comfortable, it protects fire suppression systems. Insureds can properly maintain and run heating system with these guidelines:

  • Periodically ensure the entire system is in proper working condition. Examine, clean and correct deficiencies in burners, boilers and flues. Remove obstructions from pipes, radiators and unit heaters and test controls to ensure they are operating properly.
  • Store an adequate supply of fuel at all times and consider safe, alternative energy sources.
  • Maintain clearance between heating system components and anything combustible—floors, walls, partitions and stock.
  • Maintain a temperature of at least 40°F in buildings or units with these systems: wet pipe sprinklers; dry pipe, pre-action and deluge vale closets; and pump houses.

Another concern for businesses is the accumulation of rain, snow and ice on the roofs of structures. The weight of snow and ice can—and does—lead to roof collapses. When an area experiences a great deal of severe weather over a short period of time, the risk of collapse increases, especially when snow is involved. Prevent collapse by:

  • Before a storm, check support columns and beams for forklift damage.
  • Monitor snow accumulations during heavy snowfall and clear roofs, as necessary.
  • Check not only the main roof, but smaller, adjacent roofs as well.
  • Particularly on pitched roofs, clear clogged drains—this prevents “ponding.”

For wood-related businesses, one of the most critical systems to guard from cold weather problems is the fire protective system. This equipment can freeze, exposing a facility to increased fire risk. Well before and during cold weather events, businesses can take steps to protect these systems:

  • If an area is inadequately heated and has a wet pipe sprinkler system, convert it to a dry pipe or pre-action system.
  • Dry pilot lines in dry pipe sprinkler systems and pre-action or deluge can be inspected to ensure the piping is pitched in such a way that allows proper drainage. Remove condensation from low points in the piping, as well as excess priming water.
  • Have a plan for clearing snow from access ways, control valves, hydrants, hose cabinets, smoke and heat vents, explosion relief vents and other essential fire protective equipment.

The best way our insureds can safeguard their businesses from severe cold weather is to take precautions well before a serious storm. If you haven’t already, consider encouraging your clients to inspect their heating, fire protective systems and roofs.