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Insurance Claims Rise on Weather Extremes


2018 will be a year remembered for weather extremes. The 'Beast from the East', with an estimated loss of £1 billion a day to the national economy, and insurance claims of £361 million for storm, flood and burst pipe damage, was followed by one of the hottest summers on record which resulted in increased subsidence damage claims.

Written on 19th February 2019

2018 will be a year remembered for weather extremes. The 'Beast from the East', with an estimated loss of £1 billion a day to the national economy, and insurance claims of £361 million for storm, flood and burst pipe damage, was followed by one of the hottest summers on record which resulted in increased subsidence damage claims.

As the cold weather returns, business owners are faced once again with a host of potential hazards and property risks. Research conducted by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showed that some 86,000 claims were handled, a huge increase in comparison to the 29,000 claims handled in the previous quarter. These statistics remind us that unless businesses adequately prepare, they will again run the risk of disruption to their operations and the potential for delaying or disappointing their customers.

The main property risks associated with winter weather are:

  • Burst pipes, which not only cause water damage but can also leave buildings vulnerable to the risk of       a fire if essential fire protection equipment, such as sprinkler systems, are damaged.
  • Structural damage to roofs can be caused by heavy snow and high winds.

8 ways to help with risk reduction

Potential damage from winter weather such as burst pipes and collapsing roofs can be easily avoided by introducing some risk management steps:

  1. There is no substitute for training, preparation and practice. Ensure employees are trained to mitigate winter-related risks such as knowing how to turn off the water supply if pipes burst. Have the tools, equipment and safe work practices developed to enable them to clear snow from vulnerable roofs.
  2. Ensure your business has as much notice of bad weather as possible.  Appoint a "weather checker" to monitor weather conditions at each location. Weather conditions can change in a matter of days, so having 24 hours' notice can make a huge difference.
  3. Develop an emergency plan that considers the actions you would take if your heating system fails for an extended period. List the systems and areas of the building that would be most exposed to freezing temperatures and the actions you could take to protect them. Consider what equipment and resources you can keep on-hand to enact the emergency plan and how many staff members you would need.
  4. Prevent pipes bursting by maintaining temperatures in key areas above 4⁰C. Placing thermometers in hard-to-heat areas. Housing vulnerable equipment can help to ensure vital equipment and pipes do not fall victim to freezing temperatures. For areas that are more exposed to freezing, drain all equipment that carries water, or are susceptible to condensation, or freezing. Add antifreeze to any equipment that can't be drained.
  5. Check both wet and dry-pipe sprinkler systems regularly to make sure they are ice free and remain in service to protect your business from a fire.
  6. For wet pipe sprinkler systems, ensure that the protected area and any area the sprinkler pipework runs through is maintained above 4⁰C.
  7. For dry pipe sprinkler systems, drain low points on the system before the winter period to ensure no water is trapped. It is also a good idea to ensure that air compressors are in service and well maintained.
  8. During extended periods of snowfall, monitor the amount of snow on the roof and have a plan to clear it before it accumulates and reaches unsafe levels. Pay particular attention to changes of elevation and valleys.

By considering some simple and practical actions to minimise risk, businesses can become more resilient as Winter kicks in.

A robust approach will reward the risk averse business and avoid any “frozen assets”.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/03/freezing-weather-storm-emma-cost-uk-economy-1-billion-pounds-a-day

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