Blizzards, windstorms, freezing rain, and heavy snowfall all make facilities protection a challenging proposition as the winter months set in. With advance planning and regular, routine maintenance throughout the season, your building can weather the dark days between fall and spring.
As with all preventative maintenance, proper planning is key to surviving the winter without incident. Create a winter emergency action plan based on what you expect from the coming months and any lessons learned from previous winters. Train personnel in advance, and create a well-trained emergency response team, or ERT.
Before winter, gather emergency supplies and store them in a safe, easily accessible location. Make a list of emergency contractors and vendors and verify their ability should they be needed in the aftermath of a winter storm. Make arrangements for snow removal, either in house or through a contractor.
In the fall, check that all buildings are properly insulated and weather-ready. Check all windows and doors, and seal any openings that would allow cold air to enter. Trim trees around buildings, generators, transformers, and power lines to prevent falling branches from causing damage.
Excessive snow accumulations on rooftops lead to leaks, damage, and even structural collapse. Repair any obvious problems and clear all drains, scuppers, and downspouts. Check your building’s snow load capacity, and make arrangements for snow to be removed if necessary.
Between snow, ice, mud, rain, and salt-based deicers, a facility’s floor can take a beating over the winter. Effective entry mats, while often overlooked, are your first line of defense against threats to your floor. Throughout the winter, maintain a regular schedule of mopping, sweeping, and floor polishing.
Freezing temperatures can damage your building’s sprinkler system, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, steam piping, boilers, water tanks, fire pumps, and piping containing flammable liquids. During inspections keep an eye out for cold spots, leaks, or pipe breaks, especially during severe weather. Maintaining the building temperature at 40 Fahrenheit in the coldest locations helps prevent freeze-ups—most notably at windward corners, the eaves, and locations with little to no direct heat.
Winter storms increase your risk of power outages. In the fall, complete all scheduled maintenance on backups generators and test run them to ensure they will start in the event of an emergency. Check the condition of the batteries and charger system, and ensure you have sufficient fuel for an extended outage.
All members of your ERT should understand their responsibilities and tasks in the event of a winter storm. Throughout the winter, monitor weather reports for developing storms and possible power outages. And remember—winter doesn’t last forever.