Whether you’ve seen it on the news or social media, ice storms and frigid weather have been moving across the country. With a deep freeze expected in the northeast, now is the time to take action. There are prevention measures you can take to protect your property from freezing weather – and to prevent costly claims.
Know Your Risks and Prepare
Pipes throughout buildings are at the highest risk of freezing when outside temperatures fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. A burst pipe can cause significant damage and downtime. When severe cold weather or Arctic blasts are forecasted, these unusually frigid conditions may overwhelm an otherwise effective combination of building heat and insulation. Knowing this, consider implementing a special action plan before the severe weather arrives, including:
- Conduct periodic inspections;
- Safely increase building heat to all areas; and,
- Override any energy-saving thermostats that may automatically reduce building temperatures during the period of extreme cold weather.
Steps To Take When Cold Weather Strikes
When severe cold weather arrives, consider the following actions to take to prevent pipes from freezing:
- Monitor temperatures every few hours in vulnerable areas.
- Provide heat or steam tracing for exterior piping that either contains liquids or needs to maintain constant temperatures.
- Use tarps to erect temporary windbreaks upwind (prevailing wind direction) of vulnerable buildings and equipment.
- Provide adequate heating (no less than 40 degrees) to prevent freezing during severe, protracted cold periods, especially in attics, underfloor spaces, entries, stair towers, shipping rooms and penthouses.
- Make sure that concealed spaces like false ceilings under sprinklers or piping with pendant heads have sufficient heat.
- Look for isolated drafts or cold air leaks into areas or spaces where there are sprinklers. High winds may accompany low temperatures. Check that the heating system is delivering heat to all areas.
- Repair all windows and doors. Keep them tightly closed during severe cold weather.
- Enclose piping exposed outdoors in heated, weather-tight materials.
- Maintain extra heat during periods of extreme cold to keep the sprinkler piping from freezing.
- Maintain a tight building envelope. Look for areas where cold winds can blow and close small openings. Keep all doors (especially large shipping doors) tightly closed except when needed.
- If building temperatures drop close to 40 degrees, you may need to drain the water from wet pipe sprinkler piping. Ice plugs can obstruct the piping or damage fittings and sprinklers.
- After prolonged, abnormally cold weather, make drain tests on sprinkler risers (if possible) to determine if underground mains are frozen. Open the drain wide and let it run for 30 seconds or more, then shut it off. If pressure fails to return to normal, clear ice from the mains ASAP.
- Check room temperatures frequently, especially if near 40 degrees.
- If you need to drain the system, fire protection afforded by sprinklers is no longer available. Curtail all hazardous operations during this period. Post a continuous fire watch with firefighting equipment and a way to summon help readily available.
- DO NOT use open flames or torches for thawing frozen water pipes near combustibles or buildings.
- Contact your property carrier and/or sprinkler contractor if you have any questions or concerns.
We’re Here to Help
Our risk consulting team are pros when it comes to preparing for adverse events like severe winter weather. If you have any questions about mitigating your building’s risks stemming from severe cold temperatures, reach out to one of our trusted advisors today.