Preparing for and preventing water damage
Human dependence on water demands that we have immediate access to it in large quantities; however, each year billions of dollars are lost due to water damage. With spring thaw fast approaching, don’t wait to make water damage prevention a priority.
Types of Water
Water damage can be caused by natural water, “gray water,” or service water. Rain and other precipitation can enter a building through improperly sealed access points or in places where water can collect and seep. Gray water is the runoff from sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances. Intermittent gray water leaks are common, since appliances are not usually in constant use, which makes damage difficult to detect, since it can build up over time.
Service water systems are designed to make large volumes of water readily available for tasks such as fire suppression. Any leaks in these systems can cause swift and severe water loss, especially if the affected system is located on the roof or the top floor of a multi-story building.
The age, make, design, location, and maintenance history of a building are all factors that determine just how susceptible to water damage it is. Buildings, piping, and water systems that are over 20 years old tend to be more susceptible due to wear and tear. However, newer buildings can be equally at risk if they are built with more modern or experimental materials that have not stood the test of time and, therefore, lack industry safety standards.
Architecture plays a significant role in water damage potential; for example, apartment buildings with multiple floors and units will have different risk potential than a single story warehouse. A building’s location can also be a factor, because different regions are subject to different kinds of weather, and in some cases seasonal extremes must be taken into consideration to prevent damage.
Whenever building maintenance is deferred, especially roof and HVAC maintenance, the chances for sustaining water damage are greatly increased. While maintenance deferrals are sometimes inevitable, efforts should be made to provide the required maintenance as soon as reasonably possible. Disciplined building maintenance is the best defense against water damage.
It can be difficult to mitigate water damage once it has occurred, especially if it hasn’t been considered in advance. Mitigation programs highlight areas of potential loss and determines an organization’s preferred method of restoration.
Each building has its own unique needs, but some additional points could include:
- Create a systematic maintenance and inspection schedule to avoid excessive wear and tear and identify potential failures in advance of damage.
- Analyze and repair all leaks promptly.
- Train staff to notify maintenance personnel immediately when water damage is found.
- Monitor and inspect all contract and restoration work on water systems.
- Regularly inspect all liquid storage tanks and vessels.
- Regularly review pipe diagrams to ensure they are current and show all systems and valves.
- Exercise (open and close) shut off valves annually and lubricate, if necessary, to be sure they operate easily during an emergency.
- Schedule at least one staff member per shift that can respond to a leak.
- Appoint at least one staff member with the authority to call approved professional restoration services 24/7.
- Store critical materials in ways that will protect them from water damage.
- Inspect roof, flashing, drains, downspouts, and roof mounted equipment at least twice a year, and especially after major weather events.
Water damage will always be a threat to property. Fortunately, there are many proactive prevention methods available. Please contact your broker or risk manager for more information or assistance in preventing water damage at your facilities this year.