Planning Ahead for Winter Storms

Risk Management Plan The first severe winter storms of the year left their mark on the Northeast even before Thanksgiving, and the outlook for the 2015 season calls for plenty of snow and ice. Winter storms can be devastating, resulting in property loss and threatening both lives and livelihoods. Planning ahead for winter storms can help reduce the risk of costly damage to your self-storage facility and mitigate slips and falls on your premises.

Assemble Emergency Supplies

Before a storm arrives, take the time to assemble equipment and ensure that emergency supplies are on hand and ready for use if needed. Items to consider include a first-aid kit, rock salt or ice melt, sand, snow shovels, emergency supplies of water and nonperishable food, flashlights, battery-powered radio, batteries, hand and power tools, portable pumps and hoses, and plastic covers and tarps. It is also an excellent idea to store a copy of important documents in an off-site location such as insurance policy numbers and contact information for employees, customers and vendors.

Inspect the Facility

During winter months, increase the frequency of your property inspections. Inspecting the property multiple times each day allows you to identify potential hazards quickly as weather conditions change. Pay extra attention to surfaces that may become wet or icy. Use entryway mats on interior floors and spread sand or kitty litter on outdoor walkways to increase traction. If a hazard is identified, employ safety cones, “wet floor” signs or other devices to alert customers and staff. Also inspect facility lighting at various times throughout the day to ensure that fixtures are in proper working order.

Prepare for Freezing Temperatures

When temperatures drop below freezing, the risk of damage from burst pipes increases. Frozen pipes can cause extensive damage requiring substantial cost to repair, and the potential for lengthy business interruption is considerable. Sprinkler systems, HVAC, and water-filled equipment lines should be monitored every few hours during freezing conditions. To prevent freezing, use heaters where possible in susceptible areas, open water faucets slightly to keep water flowing, and use tarps as needed to protect vulnerable equipment. If pipes freeze, it is important to turn off the water supply to avoid leaks.

Monitor and Maintain Roofs

Excessive snow load increases the potential for roof collapse and structural damage, so it is important to plan ahead to monitor and maintain roofs during winter storms. Prior to storm season, provide cold weather safety training for employees and ensure that proper equipment is on hand to safely remove snow during extreme conditions. During storms, monitor snow depths at regular intervals paying close attention to areas where snow accumulates. Be sure to remove snow accumulation uniformly across the roof to prevent unbalanced loads. If you contract with a business to perform snow removal, request documentation of evidence of insurance.

Winter storms can present many challenges for business owners. Implementing a risk management strategy to address severe winter weather can help prevent costly property damage and potential lawsuits. Your insurance agent is an excellent resource for risk management information as well as advice on insurance coverages and limits to help protect your investment.

Mike Schofield

President and CEO

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