Storm Dennis: Storms and buildings risk management

As the second weekend of severe winter storms threatens the UK, businesses are being urged to take additional precautions to ensure buildings and other physical assets are secure during the anticipated winds.

Storm Ciara last week brought heavy rain, 90mph winds and flooding; and now now the Met Office is expecting Storm Dennis to hit with winds of up to 70mph and almost five inches of rain.

Checklist: Storm damage limitation (Source: FM Global)

FM Global has created the following checklist of actions that businesses can take in the short-term to help reduce the risk of damage at their locations.

Wind damage and roofing

In high winds damage to the building’s structural frame seldom occurs, yet a small breach in a building’s envelope can destroy a large area of the interior. Specifically, the corners and the perimeter of roofing systems are particularly vulnerable. There are three tips that businesses can take to ensure damage is minimised.

The most important part of a roof system is the perimeter flashing, which acts as a weather seal along the edge of the roof. If it is inadequately secured at its lower edge, it can peel back in a windstorm - even if the covering itself is well secured. If flashing moves away from the building when it is pulled , it's too loose, and should be screwed down.

If a roof covering is suspect, contingency plan should be designed in advance of a storm. The corners of the roof will likely fail first, so plan to move or cover any stock that resides under these areas.

Secure or move indoors any items that could be blown around and damage themselves or other equipment. Make sure all doors and windows are fully closed and locked.

Ensure that any roof-mounted equipment is secured.

Mitigating flood risks

The key to preventing flood loss at a facility is to understand the exposure of the site. The amount of time before a flood can impact the actions you can take, as can the length of time for the water to recede after a flood.

Take a decision in advance for when the flood risk management plan can be enacted, to give sufficient time to take the actions that can reduce the damage to a facility.
Critical items and equipment should be moved out of basements and away from lying areas, above the predicted flood levels. This especially applies to key electrical, computer and telecommunication equipment.

Raising equipment, providing temporary flood barriers or providing walls and curbs around critical substations or equipment rooms can greatly reduce the impact floodwater has.

Snow and roof collapse

When it rains or freezes after snow, the strain on roofing systems can increase drastically. The weight of accumulated snow can also threaten to collapse roofs. This can lead to all kinds of other problems, such as damage to sprinkler piping, electrical conduits, or gas, oil or other flammable liquid lines suspended under the damaged roof. This can even the introduction of a fire hazard to a facility, creating a secondary exposure.

To safeguard a facility from possible collapse, businesses must always keep the roof well-maintained and free of excessive snow.

Roofs should be checked regularly for signs of strain, and if safe, areas of accumulated snow should be cleared.

Ensure all drains remain clear to allow drainage of water.

Ice and freeze

Freezing temperatures and ice can cause damage to sprinkler systems and other water-filled piping, and can interrupt production processes. Condensation and steam emitting piping can freeze up if pipes are not properly insulated from the cold, damaging machinery and possibly causing secondary exposures (such as fires). Businesses can take multiple steps to avoid disruption, including:

Establish a freeze emergency plan, including a reliable weather watch, and train employees in proper response techniques.

Install alternate fuel sources for heating systems.

Obtain portable heaters in the event of cold weather emergencies to ensure employees are safe and that machinery can keep operating.

The use of portable heaters in a facility should be managed with a hot-work permit system

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