As the seasons change, there’s only so much we can assume about what Mother Nature has in store for us. We can be sure that winters in the Northeastern United States will be cold—but just how cold? How much precipitation will fall and lead to ice accumulation? What are the chances of incurring devastating property damage or injury as a result of that ice? All we can assume is that there will be some freezing days, some snowfall, and some slippery, hazardous ice. And we plan accordingly.
Winter storms are inevitable—but unpredictable. According to the Insurance Information Institute, winter storms resulted in $3.5 billion of insurance losses in 2015, but only $1 billion in 2016. So when it comes to protecting our business properties against significant losses, we purchase insurance and take the necessary precautions—and then see what happens.
When Winter Rain Freezes
The high winds of a wintertime Nor’easter can bring sleet, snow, and freezing rain. When temperatures waver at the freezing point, the “wintery mix” that falls from the sky can quickly turn to ice soon after landing. How much? The storm that passed through the region in late January of 2017 resulted in ice accumulations ranging from .2 inches in Bow, New Hampshire to .8 inches near East Machias, Maine. You may also recall the crippling ice storm in 1998 that led to three inches of ice accumulation in areas of northern New York and northern New England.
The precipitation that freezes on the ground, on power lines, and in pipes makes a difference to everyone in the community and affects storm-time safety. While ice on the roads during and after a storm poses a threat to every traveler, consider its impact on your commercial property, office building, or storefront:
- Falling ice can cause dents or cracks
- Ice loads can cause roof collapse
- Frozen pipes and ice dams can cause water damage
- Ice in parking lots and on walkways and steps can cause injury
Since you don’t know how much ice you may have to deal with from year to year, it’s in your best interest to plan ahead—because any amount of ice accumulation can lead to losses.
With this in mind, here are some things to consider as you prepare your property—and manage your risks—ahead of whatever the upcoming winter brings:
Don’t Wait For The Spring Thaw
It can be hard to attribute some of your property damage to ice, because the problems often aren’t spotted until springtime—after the ice melts. For instance, cracks created by ice in January may not leak until April. Also, water damage that you believe is associated with winter ice may not even be covered by your insurance policy. In other words, you may have to grapple with some gray area when seeking insurance coverage for a loss. That’s why early detection is important and the more you can do ahead of time, the better.
Know What Can Get Damaged
It’s important to assess your property’s risks ahead of the storms so you can take preventive measures. Aside from ice hazards on your property (e.g. slippery walkways) that can injure employees and customers, evaluate the potential for ice to come in contact with items such as security cameras, gutters, siding, HVAC units, landscaping, outdoor equipment, electrical systems, roofing shingles, skylights, stairs, steps, windows, doors, solar panels, rooftop vents and more.
Once you’ve taken inventory of your vulnerable spots, take the time and energy required to perform necessary repairs and prepare your property for the onslaught of freezing rain. For example:
- Inspect your drains, gutters, downspouts, and vents for debris; ice accumulation can exacerbate problems and lead to collapse.
- Remove tree branches that could fall if covered with ice.
- Drain your water lines and insulate pipes with Styrofoam attachments, fiberglass, or heating tape.
- Pre-treat your outdoor surfaces with the appropriate ice-melt products
It may be worth the investment to work with professional contractors and landscapers to make sure you’re being safe and compliant. For more ideas, don’t miss Prevent Roof Collapse and Winter Hazard Prevention.
Be Ready For The Unexpected
As a business owner in the Northeast, you’re already adept at clearing snow and ice from around your property. And you know why having adequate insurance coverage is essential. While it’s critical to keep following common sense best practices, be sure to go the extra mile—just in case—and:
- Communicate your emergency response plan with employees.
- Keep receipts from any precautionary weatherproofing or post-storm repairs.
- Maintain an inventory of post-storm items that are lost or damaged, documented with before/after pictures and videos.
Talk To Your Insurance Agent About Your Coverage
Work with your insurance agent to ensure you’re covering your bases. Clarify what’s covered under your existing policy and assess your need for any additional protection. Finally, don’t forget loss control questions and answers are only a phone call away with our Virtual Loss Control Team 1.800.870.1100 ext. 570.
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.