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Winter Water Warning

Published on March 2, 2022

Winter storms and low temperatures have the potential to create significant damage and financial loss to your facilities. Water and freezing damages are the second most frequently filed insurance claims in the U.S., accounting for an average of $13 billion in losses annually. While the average cost for a water damage claim is about $10,000, in public school buildings individual claims costs soar.

Keeping water from causing destruction and loss of a building’s use is a two-front battle. First, you need to prevent and limit internal leakage from plumbing systems. Second, you have to keep water from outside from intruding into the building envelope.

Burst pipes are a common wintertime calamity when sub-freezing temperatures reach them. Because water expands when it freezes, it puts pressure on joints, seams and other weak spots in pipes. When this happens a building can be quickly flooded from within. Claims studies have shown that up to 93% of water damage costs could be avoided if buildings were equipped with water supply shut-off systems or water leak detection systems. During periods of extreme cold and when buildings are unoccupied for extended periods, these measures can make the difference between a minor repair and a major disaster.

"Eliminate or reduce water damage with preventive maintenance and inspections."

Weather causes about 8% of water damage to buildings, but the damage it can do can be devastating. From heavy rain that seeps into cracks and shrinking caulking to flood waters carrying waves of mud, debris and contaminants inside a building can shut down the facility, cost many thousands of dollars to restore, or destroy it completely. Recent wildfires in many areas of California have increased the risk of mudflows and flash flooding during and after heavy rainfall. As spring thaws out snow cover, the flood risk can return without additional rainfall.

Many water intrusion claims can be eliminated or reduced with preventive maintenance and routine inspections. Before major storm events, the following measures are essential:

  • Ensure all windows and doors close properly and their weather seals are in good condition.
  • Keep drains and channels cleared so that run-off does not accumulate around ground-level openings.
  • Sandbag points in a building that are below or at grade where water is likely to flow inside.
  • Inspect building vents and roofing for possible routes of water entry and make necessary repairs.

Proper preparation of your facilities will depend on the kinds of structures, terrain and many other risk factors specific to your location. A loss control inspection can help you identify how to protect your property.

Tags: property & casualty

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