Winter Is Coming: Reduce Potential Risks By Planning Ahead

As the end of the year approaches, it is an ideal time to remind your self-storage clients of the need to prepare their facilities for winter weather. Winter storms may increase the risk of property damage, personal injury, and exposures related to extreme temperatures. Planning ahead for winter weather and following good risk management practices can help to minimize these risks as well as potentially costly claims and lawsuits. Here are some tips to pass along to your customers.

Assemble Emergency Supplies

Before a storm arrives, take the time to assemble equipment and ensure that emergency supplies are on hand and ready for use if needed. Items to consider include a first-aid kit, rock salt or ice melt, sand or kitty litter, entry mats, safety cones and “wet floor” signs, snow shovels, emergency supplies of water and nonperishable food, flashlights, battery-powered radio, batteries, hand and power tools, portable pumps and hoses, and plastic covers and tarps. It is also an excellent idea to store a copy of important documents in an off-site location such as insurance policy numbers and contact information for employees, customers, and vendors.

Inspect the Facility

Before the snow starts, have the roof inspected by a qualified, licensed professional, and make suggested repairs to prevent potential damage and leaks related to snow and ice. During winter months, inspect the property multiple times each day to identify potential hazards quickly as weather conditions change. Also inspect facility lighting at various times throughout the day to ensure that fixtures are in proper working order.

Arrange for Snow and Ice Removal

Consider contracting with a reputable, insured, and licensed snow-and-ice removal company. These companies contract with businesses to remove snow and ice from walkways, driveways, aisles, stairways, and rooftops as outlined in the terms and conditions of a written contract, for example, whenever at least two inches of snow have accumulated.

Avoid Cold Stress Injuries

It is important to take precautions to protect facility employees when working outside in extreme cold weather. Provide training for managers and staff regarding the symptoms of cold stress injury and illness to include hypothermia and frostbite, and review procedures to prevent injury and respond appropriately in the event that injury occurs.

Prepare for Freezing Temperatures

When temperatures drop below freezing, the risk of damage from burst pipes increases. Sprinkler systems, HVAC, and water-filled equipment lines should be monitored every few hours during freezing conditions. To prevent freezing, use heaters where possible in susceptible areas, open water faucets slightly to keep water flowing, and use tarps as needed to protect vulnerable equipment. If pipes freeze, it is important to turn off the water supply to avoid leaks.

Communicate With Customers

Remind tenants about safety concerns such as the dangers of using candles or space heaters inside storage units through email notices, signage, and invoice stuffers. Communicate weather-related closures to tenants to reduce the risk of injury or the potential for a customer to be stranded at the facility.

Winter storms can present many challenges for business owners. Implementing a risk management strategy to address severe winter weather can help prevent costly property damage and potential lawsuits. Work with your clients who own self-storage operations to develop a risk management plan and identify insurance coverages and limits that can help protect their valuable investments.

Mike Schofield

President and CEO

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