RISK INSIGHT: Preventing a Big Freeze

Property & Casualty, Risk

As temperatures fluctuate and turn frigid, the likelihood of frozen pipes increases. Be prepared when normal winter weather suddenly turns extreme. Icy winds and sub-freezing temperatures can do a lot of damage to your business by freezing pipes and leaving you without running water for critical equipment and fire suppression. Cold weather preparedness is important to help reduce potential business interruptions and related losses resulting from cold temperatures.

Tips to Prevent Frozen Pipes:

  • Inspect exterior walls, windows, louvers, attics and mechanical spaces for proper insulation and seals.
  • Properly insulate and/or provide approved heat tracing for water-filled pipes located in exterior walls or unheated spaces.
  • If possible, drain any piping that is not required during the winter months.
  • Maintain a minimum temperature of 40° F (4.4° C) in building areas with processes susceptible to freezing, wet-pipe sprinkler systems, fire pump houses and dry-pipe valve enclosures.
  • Ensure that anti-freeze sprinkler systems have sufficient concentration (appropriate specific gravity readings) of antifreeze to withstand freezing weather.
  • Any branch lines on wet sprinkler systems exposed or subject to extreme cold weather should be insulated and heat traced. Electric heat tracing should be UL-listed for this specific purpose.
  • Fire pump test headers should be checked to ensure they have been properly drained.
  • Fire pump and dry-pipe sprinkler system equipment rooms should be checked routinely to ensure the heaters are in good operating condition.
  • The use of low temperature supervision can help to ensure rooms are being properly heated.

If heating or water supply is lost in a building protected by wet sprinklers, it should be restored immediately. If water supply cannot be established, be sure to take appropriate action by following your fire protection impairment notification program to your property insurance provider and including notifying local fire department.

Lastly, the dangers of frozen pipes don’t end as the temperature rises. Frozen pipes are actually most likely to burst as they rewarm, which can lead to extensive water damage. For more information on preventing and reacting to frozen pipes, check out this Red Cross article: Frozen Pipes.

Key Takeaways

Re-visit your risk mitigation plan:

  • Ensure your emergency plan outlines what to do in the event of a water break/leak.
  • Documentation showing the location of water control valves and the areas they serve.
  • Supervisors and managers all shifts are trained on how to respond to an emergency water leak.
  • List of emergency service providers  (fire protection and water mitigation clean-up providers)

Contact your M3 Account Executive or Risk Management team for more information on winter freeze precautions.

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