Adequate preparation for cold weather can avoid high costs related to damage and repairs at municipal facilities.

Before winter arrives, facilities maintenance staff are advised to follow these best practices to help prevent property losses:
• Unit ventilators: Air intake dampers often fail to close properly, allowing cold air intrusion, which leads to pipe freeze-ups and resulting water damage. These failures are often caused by a build-up of debris, mechanical failure, and wind-driven weather. Historically, MIIA sees the most freeze-up claims in early winter, during the first cold stretch, so a comprehensive inspection of unit ventilators is recommended in the fall, followed by monthly inspections.

• Water intrusion due to roof conditions and drains: Another critical maintenance task for the fall is inspecting roofs and roof drains for conditions that could lead to water intrusion. This includes looking for cracks in roof membranes, blistering, water ponding, and the build-up of debris.

• Inadequate heating during severe cold stretches: Building managers should be monitoring forecasts for extreme cold weather. Extreme cold often arrives during vacations and long weekends, when heating systems are likely to be in setback mode. Pipe and sprinkler freeze-ups can lead to flooding, which can be catastrophic if it goes undetected. Proactive adjustments to off-hour heating setbacks and on-site staffing of buildings are critical steps to prevent these losses, which are costly to repair and highly disruptive to school and municipal operations.

• Sprinkler freeze-ups: Sprinkler systems are often a victim of severe cold weather and heating shortfalls. In addition to the effects of the cold, be sure to look for and correct the following conditions if found: improperly sloped dry systems that allow water to accumulate in low sections, inadequate insulation and/or unmarked or improperly maintained low-point drains.

• Water connection failures: Water connections to toilets, sinks, water bubblers, water lines, etc., often fail over time. Inspect all water connections to ensure that they are operating to standards.

Written by Stephen Batchelder, MIIA vice president for claims operations and risk management