Catastrophe Center

The first line of business: never be caught off guard.

Collapsing roofs. Structural damage. Slippery parking lots and walkways. If you're a property owner or manager, winter storms can be a liability, causing severe damage to your building and injury to your tenants and your employees. But there are many steps that can help to storm-proof your building well before the first snowfall.

How to Prepare Your Business Before a Winter Storm

With more and more stories about collapsed roofs and severe building damage caused by major winter storms, you can't be too careful when it comes to protecting yourself and anyone occupying your building. Putting a plan in place today will help protect your property, your tenants and your reputation when the next storm hits.

  • Determine the maximum snow load capacity of your roof. Snow load is measured in pounds per square foot (psf). For example, 10 inches of snow is approximately 5 psf. To figure out snow load tolerances, consult your building’s blueprints and specifications, local building codes, building inspectors and structural engineers.
  • Inspect roof drains to ensure they are free of debris that may obstruct water flow. Check downspouts for blockage and make sure that runoff discharges away from the building and walkways.
  • Inspect the interior of the building for signs of a damaged or weakened roof structure. Complete repairs before the onset of cold weather.
  • Fix leaks and repair or replace roof insulation as needed.
  • Mark the location of skylights, roof drains, electrical lines, fire hydrants or other utilities that could become obscured by snow.
  • Make sure necessary snow removal equipment is available and in good condition. These include snow shovels and snow blowers. Instruct appropriate employees in the proper use of all equipment prior to a storm.
  • Implement a Fall Protection Program that meets current OSHA standards (CFR 1926.500) before allowing employees access to roofs. Be sure to review the program annually.
  • Determine where removed snow will be deposited. These areas should be away from walkways, air intakes and emergency exits.
  • Establish a plan for monitoring the path and intensity of storms, using the National Weather Service, radio or television broadcasts.
  • Reduce the potential for ice damming by thoroughly sealing openings and providing proper ventilation.

Steps to take during and following a storm.

Once the storm has ended, make sure to thoroughly inspect the building for any signs of distress. If you think there is any structural distress, consult with the local municipality office or a structural engineer before allowing tenants to re-occupy the building. These additional steps can also help protect yourself and your tenants:

  • Verify that roof drains and downspouts are clear to handle melting snow and runoff.
  • Before removing any snow from the roof, cordon off the deposit area on the ground and post an employee to monitor the area to ensure that pedestrians or vehicles do not enter this zone.
  • Avoid producing any uneven or concentrated loading during snow removal.
  • If snow blowers are used on the roof, ensure that the blades are raised high enough to prevent damage to the roof cover.
  • Watch for ponding as snow compresses and absorbs rain. The increased weight can create depressions that may not drain.
  • If you’re a Chubb business policyholder and your building has suffered damage because of a winter storm, click here to begin the claims process.

For additional information contact your local Loss Control Services risk engineer.