We have been hearing – almost daily – about the roofs that have collapsed in our area due to the weight of the snow and ice on them. We have also been hearing of damage that has occurred when ice chunks and snow slides have fallen from roofs onto property, vehicles or people below them. And if you take a quick drive you will easily see several buildings and homes with picturesque snow mounds and icicle colonies right on the edge of the roof just ready to take the plunge earthward……and hopefully no one is near when that happens.
So, we can not stress strongly enough that if you can safely take actions to prevent any of these things from happening with your property you should and if not, looking into hiring a company that can. Beside observation, you should also be aware of signs that a roof is overburdened with snow, such as creaking noises, windows and doors that won’t open, or the appearance of sagging in roof trusses or beams. If any of these signs appear, evacuate the building quickly and safely, and contact your snow-removal and insurance professionals.
Read more in this article from Erik Olsen, from Chubb Group.
How Ready Is Your Roof?
Careful roof inspections and routine maintenance are important year-round, but become critical as temperatures drop and the potential for snow increases.
A Watchful Eye One of the most important preventative measures you can take to protect a roof against snow and ice damage is inspecting it on a regular basis. If conditions allow safe access to the roof, your engineering or facilities staff should make sure roof drains are clear and operating properly, and ice isn’t accumulating near the roof’s drains or perimeter flashing. If ice forms a dam near the roof’s edge or around drains, for instance, it can damage the roof’s membrane and allow water to penetrate below the roof causing severe water damage.
The inspection should also evaluate the general condition of the roof, and should include signs of damage such as unprotected roof penetrations or bolted connections from telecommunications or solar equipment that has been installed on the roof.
Protecting Against Collapse A catastrophic risk for commercial buildings is the potential for collapse if the roof is not able to support the weight of accumulated snow and ice.
In snow-prone regions, older buildings may not have been designed for accumulated snow (or may be vulnerable to large snow drifts in a corner of the roof). Similarly, buildings with large, long expanse flat roofs — such as warehouses — may be more vulnerable to collapse than buildings with slanted or shorter span roofs.
Because the weight of snow can vary considerably according to its moisture content, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for how much snow is too much for a roof. In general terms, though, if a storm accumulation approaches a foot, it’s a good idea to consider having snow removed from the roof’s surface.
To reduce the risk of workers damaging the roof or the potential for falls, it’s a good idea to bring in a contractor with the experience and equipment needed to remove snow safely from a roof. You should meet with the contractor, ideally long before a storm, to inspect the roof and review plans to bring equipment onto the roof and to remove accumulated snow. An important consideration is how they would remove it, ideally in an even fashion so as to prevent uneven weight distribution, and where they would place the relocated snow around the perimeter of the structure.
Those discussions should also include, for instance, the contractor’s use of fall-protection procedures and equipment, and measures to reduce the risk of people near the building being struck by blown snow or falling ice.
Signs of Danger Property managers and tenants should also be aware of signs that a roof is overburdened with snow, such as creaking noises, windows and doors that won’t open, or the appearance of sagging in roof trusses or beams.
If any of these signs appear, evacuate the building quickly and safely, and contact your snow-removal and insurance professionals.
Erik Olsen is an assistant vice-president and senior risk loss control property specialist with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.