Businesses can beat the blizzards with simple steps

Published:  08 January, 2010

LONDON: With the big freeze reported to be costing the country nearly £700 million each day there are plenty of steps businesses can take to reduce its impact.

Commercial insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) has advised businesses that it is not too late to take action and have identified five top freezing risks for businesses to consider:

1. Fire Protection: sprinkler systems are prone to freezing and defrosting in areas where temperatures are not controlled which can cause strain on the pipes leading to fractures, and businesses need to check that sprinkler valves are in adequately heated areas. Hydrants should be inspected to protect against ice build-up. Fire pumps need to be kept functioning by checking heating jackets, coils and heaters.

2. Heating systems: it is essential to check heating systems across the premises (to maintain a recommended minimum temperature of 5ºC), and to check frost thermostats where fitted. Are these efficient across the site and when were they last maintained? A breakdown could result in pipes freezing or unforeseen damage to fragile equipment.

3. Flooding: when the thaw comes, floods are sometimes close behind. Businesses should check that drains and gutters are clear from winter debris, and if the site is in a potential flood area, precautions can be put in place, or preparations made to minimise water ingress risk.

4. Building Condition: frost can lead to building damages which can easily be missed in freezing conditions. A regular inspection to monitor if the building has suffered any damage (for example, broken windows or a damaged roof) is essential as this can intercept small causes which later may lead to major damages.

5. Emergency Planning: prior planning is essential, and it is equally important to review the impact of the freeze after the event to record any lessons. All businesses should have at least a basic emergency plan and should check that where such plans are in place, the trained personnel can access the site to implement the plan. Equally important is to ensure the plan does not just gather dust but is regularly reviewed, at least annually.

AGCS has published a Risk Bulletin which provides a check list for businesses to deal with the affects of wintry conditions and how they can best prepare. The bulletin can be downloaded from here.

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