Act Now to Prevent Frozen Water Pipes

Freezing weather can bring the unexpected, from slippery sidewalks and ice dams to one of the most common problems—frozen water pipes. Knowing what conditions can cause pipes to freeze is the first step to prevention. If pipes do freeze, a quick response can keep them from bursting, avoiding the expense of replacement, possible water damage to walls, floors and electrical systems, or even a business shutdown.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), 37% of all frozen pipe failures occur in a structure’s basement. What’s more, pipe insulation to keep water pipes from freezing in the first place costs much less than the price of repairs.

IBHS recommends these prevention steps for businesses:
pipes-ibhs

Interstate notes that pipes are most likely to freeze in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania and that a 1/8 inch crack can cause the loss of 250 gallons of water per day and damages from $2,000 to $100,000.

According to Interstate:
frozen-pipes1

If pipes freeze, Interstate recommends:
Do:

  • Turn off the water flow using the main water valve
  • Inspect the pipe carefully for cracks or damage
  • Consult a plumber for advice, if you find cracks or signs of damage (also be sure to consult a professional if you aren’t sure which pipe is frozen and/or you are unable to inspect it)
  • Thaw the pipe gradually using a hair dryer or space heater
  • Confirm the pipe has thawed by turning the main water valve back on and making sure that water flows
  • Take steps to raise the temperature in the area where the pipe froze or insulate the pipe

Don’t:

  • Use a blow torch or open flame to thaw a frozen pipe – open heat sources can cause fires and other safety hazards
  • Stand in water while you are operating an electrical heater, dryer or any appliance—you could be electrocuted

Frigid Weather Heightens Ice Hazards

Freezing weather now sweeping across much of the U.S. brings a greater risk of ice storms and underlines the need for careful planning and heightened safety measures.

In fact, it does not take much ice to create disaster conditions. Even a thin coat of ice can create dangerous conditions on roads. Add strong winds and you have a recipe for downed trees and power lines, bringing outages that can last for days.

According to The Weather Channel:

  • Ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times.
  • A 1/2-inch accumulation on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight.
  • An ice storm in 2009 centered from northern Arkansas to the Ohio Valley knocked out power to 1.3 million.
  • In 1998, an ice storm in northern New York and northern New England damaged millions of trees and caused $1.4 billion in damage. Accumulations were as much as three inches thick.

The Weather Channel also categorizes ice storms as nuisance, disruptive or crippling. A nuisance event is usually one of less than a 1/4 inch of ice. While these lighter accumulations are considered a nuisance, travel can still be extremely dangerous. A disruptive ice storm typically has 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice accumulation, with ice starting to damage trees and power lines. Crippling ice storms, which have widespread accumulations of more than 1/2 inch, can cause severe tree damage resulting in power outages. The most devastating storms contain ice accumulation of an inch or more.

A special hazard to drivers is black ice, caused when moisture in the air freezes when it comes in contact with a much colder roadway, or when a sudden drop in temperature causes an already wet roadway to quickly freeze.

Fleet group ARI cautions against driving on black ice, which it said is most commonly found on overpasses and on roads that wind around bodies of water such as lakes and rivers.

ARI offers these tips for drivers:

  1. Drive slowly – The best way to avoid skidding out of control is to operate your vehicle at a slower speed. A slower speed will even give you more time to react to the effects of black ice
  2. Don’t slam the brakes – While it may be a natural instinct to slam on your brakes, this will only cause your car to lose control and slide even more. Tap the brake pedal lightly instead of pushing down hard on it.
  3. Maintain a safe following distance – In situations like this, you need to extend you following distance to ensure you will have ample time to react to the motorist ahead especially if they begin to lose control.
  4. Look for trouble spots ahead – If you have an idea that there may be black ice ahead (if you see cars ahead of you sliding, for example), downshift to a lower gear before you come onto the black ice. The lower gear will force you to drive more slowly and it will give you better control of your car.
  5. As soon as your car begins to slide on black ice, take your foot off the gas pedal – In fact, the last thing you want to do is give your vehicle more gas. It is very important to slow down when you are driving on black ice or in any other winter road conditions.

NOAA Releases 2014 Hurricane Season Outlook

hurricane season

In a press conference this morning, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its official 2014 outlook for the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific hurricane seasons.

The East Coast may see below-average activity this year, thanks, in part, to the anticipated development of El Nino this summer. According to NOAA, “El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.”

There is a 50% chance for a below-average season, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10% chance of an above-average season, the center predicts. “For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to two major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher),” they announced.

2014 Atlantic Hurricane OutlookBut the forecast is no reason to take preparations lightly. “Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land-falling storm to cause a disaster.”

On the West Coast, it may be a more tumultuous summer. The outlook calls for a 50% chance of an above-normal season, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. The center predicts there is a 70% chance of 14 to 20 named storms, which includes 7 to 11 hurricanes, of which 3 to 6 are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

“The key climate factor behind the outlook is the likely development of El Niño this summer. El Niño decreases the vertical wind shear over the eastern tropical Pacific, favoring more and stronger tropical storms and hurricanes,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The eastern Pacific has been in an era of low activity for hurricanes since 1995, but this pattern will be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Niño.”

Next week (May 25-31) is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and NOAA and FEMA will be offering additional tips and insight on their websites ahead of the official start of hurricane season on June 1.

New Year, New Natural Disaster Emergency Plans

Along with January renewals and analyzing whether existing policies offer sufficient coverage, the new year is a perfect reminder to review company-wide emergency plans. While 2013 may have been a relatively light year for catastrophe losses, there’s no reason to assume 2014 will be, too.

Check out this infographic from Boston University’s Masters in Specialty Management program for a jump-start on identifying the risks of natural disaster and updating plans for how to handle any emergency:

Survive a Natural Disaster