Winter Is Coming:
Plan Ahead to Reduce Risk
As the end of the year approaches, it is an ideal time to prepare your self-storage facility for winter weather. Winter storms may increase the risk of property damage, personal injury, and exposures related to extreme temperatures. Planning ahead for winter weather and following good risk management practices can help to minimize these risks as well as potentially costly claims and lawsuits.
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 or kitty litter, entry mats, safety cones and "wet floor" signs, 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
Before the snow starts, have your roof inspected by a qualified, licensed professional, and make suggested repairs to prevent potential damage and leaks related to snow and ice. During winter months, inspect the property multiple times each day to identify potential hazards quickly as weather conditions change. Also inspect facility lighting at various times throughout the day to ensure that fixtures are in proper working order.
Arrange for Snow and Ice Removal
Consider contracting with a reputable, insured, and licensed snow-and-ice removal company. These companies contract with businesses to remove snow and ice from walkways, driveways, aisles, stairways, and rooftops as outlined in the terms and conditions of a written contract, for example, whenever at least two inches of snow have accumulated. Keep in mind that if you choose to contract with a snow-and-ice removal company, you need to know the terms of the agreement and follow up to ensure that the work is being performed. Also, don't wait for the contractor to show up to address black ice and other critical hazards that need to be taken care of immediately. If you see it, take care of it.
Avoid Cold Stress Injuries
It is important to take precautions to protect yourself and your employees when working outside in extreme cold weather. Provide training for managers and staff regarding the symptoms of cold stress injury and illness to include hypothermia and frostbite, and review procedures to prevent injury and respond appropriately in the event that injury occurs.
Prepare for Freezing Temperatures
When temperatures drop below freezing, the risk of damage from burst pipes increases. 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.
Communicate With Customers
Remind tenants about safety concerns such as the dangers of using candles or space heaters inside storage units through email notices, signage, and invoice stuffers. Communicate weather-related closures to tenants to reduce the risk of injury or the potential for a customer to be stranded at the facility.
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.
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