When Jack Frost comes to town, disasters can happen quickly. Commercial property owners often face ice on walkways and snow on the roof, not to mention the threat of frozen pipes. These cold weather situations frequently snowball into costly liability issues — but they don’t have to. Let’s review ways to protect your commercial property investments.

1. Preventing Slips and Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Many injuries related to cold weather happen from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches.” In fact, it’s estimated that over one million people are injured from falling on ice or snow each year. Unfortunately, many of these falls are fatal, so it’s essential to prevent them.  

Weather Monitoring

As mentioned, commercial property owners must make a reasonable effort to prevent these accidents from happening. For starters, develop a way to gauge the weather conditions in your area. An excellent approach is to assign one individual (or a team) to weather monitoring. By knowing a storm is on its way, you can stay one step ahead of the danger. 

Ice Removal

Next, consider how you will remove the ice from walkways or high-traffic areas, whether by in-house personnel or outside services. Keep in mind that hiring an outside vendor means being mindful of their liability status. In other words, please verify that the vendor carries their own insurance and will hold the property owner harmless in the event of a claim. 

Regardless of who you delegate this task to, this individual or team must be responsible for the following:

  • Snow-removal
  • Rock salt or de-icing compound inventory  
  • Removal log management
  • Proper claim handling

Ongoing Communication

Remember to keep your patrons informed about any ice-removal services and their role during a winter storm. If an accident occurs, practice swift claim reporting, and fill your patrons in on claim handling procedures. On that same note, commit to recording accidents and investigations promptly. 

Lastly, monitor the effectiveness of your ice-removal plan and other procedures. Make adjustments as necessary, and remember to lean on your commercial insurance broker for support. There’s a good chance they’ve been through similar situations once or twice and will have plenty of tips to offer. 

2. Managing Snow on the Roof

Q1 and Q2 cost a record-breaking $15.1 billion in insured losses, mainly due to the massive winter storms across the country in 2021, especially in Texas. In 2020, winter storms caused roughly $1.1 billion in insured losses. While this cost was down from 2019’s $2 billion in losses, it’s nothing compared to what the storms during the first half of 2021 caused. Let’s talk about how to handle the threat of snow.

Snow Accumulation

It’s no surprise that snow and ice caused most of the damage during 2021. However, the damage level often depends on snow accumulation and type. For example, one or more feet of wet, heavy snow or ice is a red flag for danger. However, it takes four or more feet of light, dry snow to reach the same danger zone.

Storm Preparation 

As mentioned earlier, having a designated individual or team monitoring weather conditions is invaluable. That said, preparing for a severe snowstorm typically means developing a solid game plan for snow management. Remember to choose snow placement carefully, avoiding entrances or utility valves (i.e., fire hydrants, gas connectors, etc.).

As always, keep your patrons in the loop on your plans to manage the winter issues. It’s not uncommon for commercial property owners to develop a contingency plan in preparation for the worst-case scenario. 

Post-Storm Cleanup

Melting snow is challenging and can trickle to the most unsuspecting places. Keep a close eye on the state of your building. Is the melting snow causing leaks? Is your building stressed under the snow’s weight? Watch the state of your property meticulously as Jack Frost can be surprisingly harsh to older buildings.

Lastly, alter your removal procedures if part of the plan wasn’t successful. And report any claims or damages to your insurer. Again, your commercial insurance broker can be beneficial in assisting with the claims process, so don’t be shy about reaching out to them. 

3. Avoiding Frozen Pipes

We know that cold air has few limits regarding where it can go. You might have opened your medicine cabinet or your closet doors one winter morning only to feel a bitter breeze rush across your face. Cold temperatures respect no one, let alone your pipes!

Frozen Pipe Damage

Pipes located in enclosed or isolated spaces tend to freeze during cold temperatures. Unfortunately, frozen pipes often lead to them bursting and creating a massive mess. Also, these broken pipes can disrupt your patrons’ daily lives and cost you a chunk of change in repairs and cleanup. 

Sprinkler System Maintenance

Frozen pipes can prevent fire protection sprinklers from working correctly more than mere lifestyle disruptions. If your building loses its heat source, exhaust your resources to restore power for the sake of your patrons and also your wet sprinkler system. Drain and shut off your sprinkler system if unable to reestablish heat in the building. This proactive approach will prevent any further damage to your sprinklers.

Additionally, winter weather can cause fast-moving fire departments to slow down, delaying their response time. This aspect makes it even more critical to keep your property’s sprinkler system up and running. 

Prevention Tips  

Cold temperatures don’t have to pose as significant a problem as some think. Commercial property owners can take precautions to avoid frozen pipes and the damage they cause, including:

  • Drain and shut off pipes that aren’t used during cold months.
  • Keep temperatures at 40 degrees or above in all areas of the building.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated spaces, including sprinkler system pipes. 
  • Maintain heating systems to ensure continued usage.
  • Monitor antifreeze concentration in sprinkler systems.
  • Conduct routine checks of fire pumps, sprinkler system equipment, and building plumbing.

Preventing cold weather issues is far more convenient and cost-efficient than cleaning up a mess. At the least, it’s best to be ready for a storm before it hits. For more helpful tips, feel free to talk with one of our ReShield representatives by emailing [email protected]

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about your commercial insurance options, please visit our Contact Us page. We’re here to help!