Stressing the importance of protecting property from extreme weather events, Thomas Roche, FM Global’s Northern Europe operations vice-president, detailed the following steps that can be implemented by businesses to prevent loss from extreme flood and wind:
“The major impact of storms, and the most costly, is the damage that results when the building’s envelope is torn open and lets wind and rain into the facility. During a windstorm, damage to the building structural frame seldom occurs. Yet, a very small breach in the building envelope can destroy a large area of the interior. For this reason, keeping the building envelope sealed is one of the most effective ways of windstorm damage at a facility
“The most important component of a roofing system is the metal-edge flashing, which secures the roof cover to the edge of the building. If high wind loosens a roof’s perimeter flashing, further damage is inevitable to the roof’s covering and insulation, even if properly secured. Inadequately designed and installed flashing will likely lead to additional damage from water leakage. 90% of the yearly wind losses experienced by FM Global clients are related to flashing. Strong wind doesn’t have to mean a hurricane or a typhoon. Even wind gusts well below hurricane intensity can cause damage to inadequately secured flashing. The good news, however, is that flashing can be properly secured for the cost of a few galvanised screws.”
Snow and Ice
“Whether you’re hit by a single storm with heavy, wet snow and high winds or a series of smaller storms, the result is the same: deep accumulation of snow on your roof that can lead to overloading or collapse. Add heavy rain to the scenario and the potential for significant loss becomes that much greater. Blocked drains, an inadequate number of drains, or poorly located drains may prevent the run-off of melting snow, which accumulates and freezes to a more dense layer of ice, further compounding problems.
“In regions where freeze is infrequent, inadequate insulation and heat may prove insufficient to prevent freeze, resulting in broken water piping and water damage, or impaired fire protection sprinkler systems and sprinkler leakage. When this happens, the facility becomes vulnerable to fire.
“It’s important to have an alert weather watch and a ready response, such as activation of on-site portable heaters. Among the freeze hazard factors, process equipment is typically not enclosed, dryers for instrument air systems may be undersized, and even steam systems may freeze if the return piping is not insulated. In these regions, it is vital to identify equipment and piping that should be drained, and to train operators and maintenance staff how to prevent process upsets when draining.”
“Research has shown that, if you are unprepared, a flood could cost your business an average of £2.1m in property damage. Therefore it is key for businesses to fully understand the exposure of their site to prevent flood loss. It is critical to be aware of how much warning time you may have, how deep the floodwater is likely to get, what the impact of fast moving floodwater may be and how long it will take to recede. Furthermore, waves of little more than 3 feet in height can cause structural damage and demolish lightweight buildings.
“For a facility located in a known flood zone, it is not a case of if it will flood, but when. Flood damage and disruption is caused by many factors, for instance, floodwater can contain various contaminants including mud, sand, chemicals and even raw sewage which also adds to the damage potential. Facilities that exist within flood zones should focus on two main strategies: keeping the floodwater out of important buildings where practical, and limiting what gets damaged when water does enter a structure.
“To reduce the impact of flood on your business, there are simple, practical steps you can take immediately, such as moving critical items out of basements and away from low lying areas. You can further reduce your risk by making permanent physical changes to your facility, where practical, to keep floodwater out of key areas, or permanently elevating important items above predicted flood levels. Finally, if the residual flood risk warrants it, develop a flood emergency response plan.”
This article first appeared in CIR Magazine in January 2015.