Article from Philadelphia Insurance

Cold weather freeze-ups can cause vital fire protection systems to malfunction. Cold temperatures can cause sprinkler piping to burst resulting in major water damage to buildings, contents, and equipment. Pipes bursting can also impair automatic sprinkler systems and leave a major portion of your facility without fire protection. A fire during this situation may result in a major interruption to your business and a huge loss.

In the interest of preventing water damage claims for your property, designated key personnel should be aware of freeze protection and emergency preparedness procedures. Utilize the Winter Weather Precautions Checklist to assist with your risk control program.

Best Practices include:

Building temperature should be monitored, documented, and maintained at 55° F or higher

Perform freeze protection   inspections and be cognizant of shutdown procedures
Have a contingency plan with   contractors and suppliers
Pre-emergency planning for fire,   water damage, and snow removal should be established
Boilers, furnaces, heaters, and   flues should be serviced regularly
24 hour building surveillance
Enforce a no smoking policy
Safeguard flammable or combustible   liquids

Water Supplies

Tanks should not leak and pressure   should be checked
Water temperature should remain at   42°F or above
Check fire hydrants for proper   drainage by outside contractor or water department
Buried sprinkler control valves   and valve pits should be marked in the event of heavy snowfall
Fire pump room should not drop   below 70°F
Post indicator valve, OS&Y   valve, and test header to pump inspected regularly

Wet Pipe Sprinkler Systems

All areas of buildings with   sprinkler systems should maintain a temperature of 40°F or above
Cold weather valves should be   closed while all others remain open
Windows, skylights, and doors   should be in good condition and sealed tightly
Check temperatures with   thermometer

Dry Pipe Systems

Dry lines should be checked for   proper drainage so trapped water doesn’t cause breakage
Check drains located in cold   places for freezing
Dry-valve clapper should be   properly set with temperature maintained at 40°F or above
Low air pressure alarms should be   provided, calibrated and connected to constantly
attended locations
Low pressure switches should be   set at 5 psi which is above trip point of dry pipe valve
Air pressure checked regularly   with records maintained to indicate normal pressure
Air drying equipment available to   supply air to system as designed

Snow and ice build up can wreak havoc by placing additional loads on roofs, and supporting bearing members. Snow and winter storm event severity can be hard to predict depending on the location and geography of your facilities. It is best practice to plan ahead to have a written plan in place when the snow or ice arrives.

Roofs collapse mainly due to weather patterns that produce a cycle of 2 events:

a rapid freeze
a rapid thaw

This rapid freeze and thaw cycling produce weighty snow/ice buildup that places excess stress on your roof. Flat roofs are especially prone to excessive accumulation and build up by the lack of natural grading, pitch and lack of runoff.

Best practices include:
Maintain all roofs and keep current with repairs. Winter weather will only further damage any underlayment and the damaging effects of water infiltration will be costly and may cause business interruptions.

Arrange to have all roofs cleared of snow especially where snow drifts are visible. Hire a competent contractor for this dangerous task.

Request contractor to clear any and all roof drains to allow for runoff and limit ponding especially on flat or relatively shallow pitched roofs. Clear pathways to the eaves in situations where there is a pitched roof without drainage pipes.

Removal of accumulation of snowfall from your driveways, sidewalks and entryways is essential to maintain safe access to your facility by emergency responders.

Clear all driveways, sidewalks, parking areas, access ways, bulkheads, portals, entryways and exits to allow for emergency to safely access your premises.

Onsite fire fighting workers enhanced if hydrants are accessible and clearly marked with colored marker flags in high snow drifts.

Unoccupied buildings:
Vacant, idle, or otherwise “unoccupied” buildings or large buildings with unused space (compartments, floors, rooms, or basements, etc.) present another set of hazards that an organization must consider for best practice winter weather controls.

Inadvertent releases of water, left unchecked or allowed to flow unnoticed, usually results in extensive interior damage. Best practices for these situations involve:

Maintain fire protection services   including water based fire protection services (sprinklers) – consult your   contractor to maintain these systems in service
Maintain interior heat at 40°F or   greater
Maintain remote (electronic)   monitoring of indoor temperatures
Visit and survey daily to verify   conditions of building or space
Install water alarms to detect of   release of water, burst pipe, etc.

Unheated Space:

Close main water valves with   potable/domestic water
Contract a plumbing professional   to drain all piping from water heaters, faucets, and supply piping
Notify proper   authorities when plans call for fire protection system   (sprinkler) impairment
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