For most of the nation, winter is here. Whether you love or hate the season, one thing is for sure – pipes will freeze and some will burst when the weather cools.
Every year, insurance companies receive countless claims about frozen hoses and sprinkler systems causing extensive water damage to retirement homes – independent living, assisted living, memory and continuing care. retirement communities like yours. While your current policy may cover an incident like this, the situation is much better if you take precautions to prevent the problem in the first place.
Here is a list of six important steps to reduce your risk of water damage and business interruption due to frozen pipes:
- Keep the temperature in all rooms above 50 degrees. During periods of extreme cold, stop using lower nighttime temperatures. A cold building is the most important risk factor for frozen pipes.
- Add insulation to attics and crawl spaces. Without insulation, the heat generated by your system will escape through the attic and crawl space, lowering the temperature throughout your building. As the weather continues to change, consider insulating your pipes even if freezing temperatures have been rare in your area in the past. If you have wet sprinkler systems in your attic or on the top floor ceiling, make sure that the insulation is adequate to prevent freezing, not only during normal winters, but also during extreme events such as storms. polar vortices. Extreme cold events are nowhere near as rare as you might think.
- Keep your doors and windows tightly closed. Check for drafts and cold air leaks. Even a small leak can cause the pipes to freeze. When you close the doors, make sure they are fully locked.
- Let a faucet run to prevent the pipes from freezing. During periods of extreme cold, this practice helps relieve pressure and prevent the bursting of pipes.
- Remember to drain your pipes. If your building will not be in use for a while, you may want to turn off the water and drain your pipes to reduce their risk of bursting. In this case, assign someone to visit the building every few days to check for signs of a drop in temperature and water damage. Speak to your agent or insurer before draining or shutting off the water supply to the building’s sprinkler systems, as this could potentially suspend insurance coverage or make your building vulnerable to a fire.
- Install a temperature warning system. At night or when you are away from your building for an extended period of time, a temperature alert system can notify you of conditions that may be causing pipes to freeze, such as a faulty heating system. Some insurers offer a temperature and water alert system at no additional cost to eligible customers.
- Have a plan for utility outages. Extreme winter conditions can lead to utility outages that can leave your building unoccupied and susceptible to freezing. Your plan should consider how to reach your building during these outages and how to flush the plumbing, including sprinkler systems, until utilities and heat can be restored.
What to do if your pipes freeze
If your pipes do freeze, there are several immediate steps you need to take to minimize further damage:
- Open the taps on frozen appliances to relieve pressure and prevent bursting hoses.
- Soak the rags in hot water and wrap them around the frozen pipes.
- In particularly cold areas, use a heater placed at a safe distance from flammable or combustible materials and open cabinet doors to allow hot air to reach the pipes.
If a pipe bursts, it goes without saying that you should immediately turn off the water supply to the affected area and call a plumber for professional help. It is also essential that your operations and maintenance staff know the location of the water shutoff valves. Your second call should be to your insurer.
If the water supply to your sprinkler system is affected, you will need to discuss the ramifications for the sprinkler system. Most carriers offer comprehensive coverage that can protect your organization and building when situations like frozen pipes occur.
If you find yourself in a cold climate – or even one that sometimes drops below freezing – take the time to review your current policy to make sure you’re covered. Preparation and prevention are essential to protect your organization.
Guy Russ is Assistant Vice President Risk Control for Church Mutual Insurance Co., SI, an equity insurer.
The opinions expressed in each McKnight Seniors Residence marketplace column are those of the author and not necessarily those of McKnight Seniors Residence.