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Protecting Your Facility Against Winter Weather

November 1, 2000

4 Min Read
Protecting Your Facility Against Winter Weather


Protecting Your Facility Against Winter Weather

By David Wilhite

Are you ready for winter?Freezing temperatures, blustery winds, ice, sleet and snow can all cause severedamage to your self-storage facility and property, especially if you are notprepared for them. Winter conditions can present severe exposures to yourbuilding and the systems necessary to keep your self-storage facility running.Wet and icy conditions can also increase your liability risk by presentinggreater potential for your tenant to slip or fall.

To give you some idea of just how damaging cold temperatures and heavy snowcan be, consider the blizzard of 1993, which was the fifth most costly insuredcatastrophe in the history of the United States and caused an estimated $1.75billion in damage. Much of the damage attributed to this storm was from frozenpipes, roof collapse due to the weight of snow, and interior water seepage dueto blocked roof drains--most of which could have been reduced or eliminated hadbusiness owners been properly prepared. Unfortunately, due to the late date ofthe storm (mid-March) and its unusually wide geographic coverage, manyunsuspecting business owners found themselves either unprepared or uninsured,and suffered major losses.

When considering the risk that winter weather poses to your self-storagefacility, keep in mind that significant property damage may not necessarilyoccur only in those states that experience the harshest winters. Regions inwhich cold weather is the exception may suffer even greater losses. For example,an Arctic cold wave hit the Deep South in December of 1996, plungingtemperatures toward record lows. At that time, below-freezing conditionsextended from the citrus country in Florida, all along the Mexican border,reaching far into Texas, causing major losses. (Of course, Northern locationsare most likely to be hard-hit on a regular basis. That same year, Minnesota andIowa experienced record blizzard conditions, with wind chills reaching 55degrees below zero; and many residents of the Dakotas were stranded after twodays of heavy snowstorms left drifts at rooftop levels).

Don't wait until disaster strikes--now is the time to take preventive actionto minimize your risk exposures and reduce your damage claims. The followingchecklist can help you you get started on a safe, loss-free winter.

Winter Weather Precaution Checklist


  • Maintain indoor temperatures above 40 degrees in heated areas to prevent pipe freeze-ups.

  • Ensure that doors and windows are weather-tight and secure any unnecessary openings.

  • Inspect remote areas for possible freezing and keep portable heaters on hand.

Roofs and Gutters

  • Assess (with the help of a structural engineer) your roof's capacity for excessive snow loads and keep levels within safe bounds.

  • Monitor snow levels in roof areas susceptible to large drifts and clear excess accumulation immediately.

Heating Systems

  • Examine the entire heating system on a weekly basis during cold weather and repair any deficiencies immediately.

  • Ensure heating equipment is capable of maintaining building temperatures above freezing at the coldest point within the building.

  • Boilers: Completely drain idle equipment, elevate low points and dead ends, and check all service lines for freezing. Install heat tracing around control-line transmitter boxes and piping that carries water.

Water Lines

  • Regularly clear snow away from sprinkler control valves, vents and other vital equipment.

  • Leave outside water faucets open to drain.

  • Install snap-on insulation on pipes subject to extreme wind chill.

Fire Protection Equipment

  • Establish a regular maintenance program to ensure that snow and ice are cleared away from hydrants, sprinkler control valves, smoke and heat vents, and other essential equipment, so that all equipment is accessible during emergencies.

  • Lubricate all sprinkler-control valves and locks to prevent freezing.

  • Label location of outside sprinkler-control valves and hydrants for easy visibility.


If you do have a loss, take steps to control the damage. Move property out ofharm's way and protect it from the elements. Contact your insurance agent orbroker as soon as possible. Remember, no matter how large or small yourself-storage facility may be, securing adequate coverage is essential forprotecting your business and your peace of mind.

In addition to loss-of-income and extra-expense coverages, UniversalInsurance Facilities Ltd. offers a complete package of coverages specificallydesigned to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information,or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ85067-0079; phone (800) 844-2101; fax (480) 970-6240; e-mail [email protected]www.vpico.com/universal.

Winter-Weather Terminology

Know the terms used to forecast winter weather conditions:

Winter Storm Watch: Severe winter weather is possible in the affectedarea which may include snow, ice or dangerous wind chills.

Winter Storm Warning: Severe winter conditions have begun or are aboutto begin in your area.

Blizzard Warning: Snow and strong winds (generally above 35 mph) willcombine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts andlife-threatening wind chill.

Heavy Snow Warning: Snow accumulations of 6 inches or more in 12 hoursor 8 inches or more in 24 hours is expected.

Freezing Rain Warning: Significant, and possibly damaging,accumulations of ice are expected.

Snow Advisory: New snowfall of 15 inches is expected.

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