Across the country, winter has settled in and left its mark with snow, ice and freezing temperatures. With a few months of winter left, it’s important for public entities and their risk management professionals take steps to prevent damage to their buildings and equipment. OneBeacon Government Risks recommends the following tips to prevent buildings or other structures from collapsing under the weight of snow and ice, before, during and after a winter storm.
Before A Storm
- Review the roof’s design to be certain it can support the weight of snow, ice and water anticipated for your area. Look for weaknesses and reinforce it if necessary, particularly where increased weight from drifting is likely.
- Make certain roofs, gutters, drains, downspouts and scuppers are clear and in good condition.
- Determine a safe snow depth for the roof and plan to begin removal when accumulated snow reaches half that depth. Snow weight can vary greatly depending on how much water it contains.
- Develop a snow removal plan that includes roofs, skylights, canopies and overhangs. Assign individuals to be responsible for monitoring, snow removal, etc.
- Additionally, many roof locations will require fall prevention devices to be used; it is your public entities’ responsibility to create a safe working environment for snow removal employees with the proper equipment and training.
- Ensure these employees are properly trained on attire for cold weather in order to prevent illnesses related to freezing temperatures including: frostbite, hypothermia, excessive exposure, etc.
- Be ready to implement your snow removal plan into effect immediately, especially in windy weather when snow will drift and accumulate.
During A Storm
- Monitor the weather and condition of the roof.
- Inspect roofs for leaks or structural deficiencies that may develop during the storm.
- Clear leaves, snow, ice, silt, or other debris from gutters, drains, downspouts and scuppers.
- Provide adequate heating for all structures with a domestic water supply. Frozen pipes also lead to substantial water damage claims.
- And remember, storms don’t take the weekend off!
After A Storm
- Remove all snow immediately from every roof surface, including roof overhangs and covered porches. If the accumulation exceeds your capabilities consider utilizing a professional contractor.
- Remove snow from side walls to prevent high snow mounds from pushing them in or moisture entry during a snow melt.
- Temporarily shore up and brace dipping or sagging roofs or walls.
- Verify drains are clear of ice and snow to allow melting and runoff. If the roof is pitched and without drains, open paths to the eaves to ensure drainage and prevent ponding.
- Avoid ice dams by keeping the attic well ventilated so snow doesn’t melt and refreeze at the roof’s edge. Also make certain the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house into the attic.
Public entities also should notify their insurance agent or insurance company at the first sign that property may have suffered damage from snow and ice or any other winter condition.
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