DRILLING DOWN

Winter Storm Uri: Facility Management Learnings and Strategies Moving Forward

Few Texans will ever forget Winter Storm Uri and the havoc it unleashed across the State in February 2021. Cities that rarely see ice and snow were covered in the white stuff, pipes froze and burst, and an estimated 4.5 million people lost power to their homes and businesses.

2022 kicked off with plummeting temperatures across much of Texas. Yet meteorological forecasting models range from warmer-and-drier than average predictions to colder-and-wetter, which only proves that it’s always best to be prepared for the unexpected. The only thing predictable about Texas weather is its unpredictability. Fortunately, how you prepare is well within your control. These tips can help you prepare and protect your commercial building and avoid costly damage and repairs.

 

Preparing Your Property for Winter Storms and Freezing Temperatures

Service Your HVAC System

Before you switch from A/C to heating (and vice versa), have the HVAC system inspected, cleaned, and repaired. Change out filters regularly, especially at the start of a new season.

Inspect Your Fire Prevention Systems

Inspect fire sprinkler systems regularly during the winter months to ensure that they are in working order. Additionally, maintain adequate heat in all buildings to keep pipes protected from freezing temperatures. Have a backup heating option in place in case of a power outage. If your building can’t maintain a temperature of at least 40 degrees, you will need to insulate your pipes.

Drain the Irrigation Systems
Irrigation systems are often overlooked during the winterizing process. Drain the system and shut it down during the winter months. Test it thoroughly before setting up automatic start times in the Spring to prevent wasting water from leaks that may occur regardless.

Examine the Roof and Gutters
Inspect the roof and exterior cladding for any signs of damage or general wear and tear that could yield leaks. Vents should be checked to ensure they’re properly sealed. Clear debris from gutters to prevent water from accumulating and freezing in places that could be damaging or hazardous to occupants and visitors.

Put Out Safety Mats and Rugs

Coarse matting placed outside a building can help prevent surfaces from becoming slick in freezing conditions. Mats and rugs should also be placed directly inside entrances. This simple measure will prevent wet surfaces and slipping hazards elsewhere in the building.

Determine How You Will Have Snow and Ice Removed

Some ice and snow removal can be managed easily by on-site maintenance staff with shovels and salt. If possible, provide covered walkways to and from parking lots and structures, as well as directly outside entrances.

Fix Drafty Windows and Doors

Gaps around windows and doors can make working conditions less comfortable for anyone working near them or in a room that’s colder because of them. Seal gaps to keep tenants and customers warm and conserve energy and money.

Ensure That Exterior Lighting is Adequate

With the sun setting earlier in winter months and people leaving buildings after dark, it’s imperative that lighting is sufficient throughout the exterior of a building and in any parking lots. Ensure that sidewalks are well lit to prevent slip-and-falls and costly accidents.

Prep Pipes to Prevent Freezing and Bursting

As many Texans learned from Winter Storm Uri, burst pipes can cause plenty of stress. Not only does a burst pipe necessitate the inconvenience of turning off the water to a building, but the resulting leaks can cause flooding. A burst pipe often damages interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and flooring, and causes mold problems down the road. Check that all pipes are well insulated and leak-free. For more complicated plumbing systems, consult a master plumber.

What to Do if Pipes Burst

Sometimes severe weather can impact even those buildings that are the most prepared. In the event of burst pipes, act quickly to mitigate the damage. Turn off the main water valve, shut off the electricity at the main breaker, open cabinets, and rooms to allow warm air to circulate and prevent additional burst pipes.

Once the situation has been stabilized, take photos to document the damage for your insurance provider. Between shutting off the water and waiting on repairs, remove important equipment and documents building from the building.

Be Prepared with Standby Power

An automatic backup generator can prevent the hassle that accompanies power loss from becoming a full-fledged disaster. When electricity is lost, a backup generator immediately powers up, ensuring essential equipment and systems continue to function. This can be key for keeping daily operations running smoothly and preventing burst pipes due to loss of heating.

Meticulous maintenance is vital to guaranteeing the generator is fully functional when it’s needed most, however. The generator must be sized for your facility and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions. To guarantee this, many building managers opt to partner with a commercial generator dealer. These dealers should craft a facility-specific plan that addresses the electrical connections, generator placement, and cable routing.

When in Doubt, Call in the Experts

No two commercial buildings are the same, so a facility’s winterization plan should be equally custom and unique. A good winter storm strategy should always factor in a facility’s size, age, location, and a variety of other factors.

When in doubt, consult local restoration experts. Lean on Mooring USA as your trusted partner for winter weather emergency and disaster recovery services. It’s what we do, and we would love to help you. Give us a call at 888-293-9952.