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Surviving Winter

Despite advances in weather forecasting, our winters can still be unpredictable, partly due to more extreme events. But that’s no excuse for being unprepared. Ashley Hoadley of Darwin Clayton shares some tips for property managers and contractors.

Most tips for protecting property and people may be familiar, which is perhaps why some businesses overlook

this basic advice.

Others think they’ve got all the bases covered, only for Mother Nature to fi nd gaps in their planning.

Whichever the reason, millions of pounds worth of damage is sustained by businesses and households every winter due to burst pipes, roof snow collapses and water leaks.

In offi ces and other buildings, managers may schedule extra cleaning of entrance areas during a cold snap, if only to limit the grit and slush tramped onto carpeted areas. But what’s even more critical is reducing the risk to employees and visitors of slips and falls on steps, tiled foyers and internal stairs.

Preventing pipe bursts is a fundamental precaution as the mercury drops. Check that pipes and tanks are properly lagged (with BS6700 quality lagging), repair dripping taps and faulty ball valves, as waste pipes can freeze, and ensure that central heating has a working frost stat.

If your premises shuts down for the holiday, heating should be maintained at a low level. The property should also be inspected at least daily during very cold weather. Idle boilers need to be drained. Sprinkler systems must be made ‘winter safe’ by specialists.


They are especially vulnerable in outdoor areas, valve chambers and pump rooms.

Even when proper precautions are taken, problems can occur. So plan for the worst. Make sure key holders know the layout and routes of water, gas and electricity services, and where this information is kept. Check that main and subsidiary stop- taps are working, and record their locations too. Your emergency fi le should also include contact details for trusted plumbing contractors.

After heavy or prolonged snowfall, consider the roof. Continual thawing and refreezing can create ‘ice dams’, while water may ‘back up’ and get under tiles, leaking into the building. Keeping drains free of ice or other blockages will help prevent this, so clear accumulating roof snow before it reaches unsafe levels.

As with property damage, the toll in lost productivity, not to mention risk to life and limb from accidents on winter roads is high. Whether they just drive to and from – or for – work, in company vehicles or their own, it is good practice to remind employees of the need for special precautions in wintry driving conditions.

Correctly infl ated tyres with suffi cient tread are the fi rst line of defence.

Batteries run down quicker in cold weather and a regular long journey is needed to top it up. Even with

modern engines, it’s still advisable to depress the clutch when starting off to reduce drag on the engine and preserve battery power.

Other basic essentials are de-icer and topping up screenwash, including the right amount of additive to prevent freezing. To avoid frozen door locks, give them a squirt of WD-40.

But before setting off, drivers should pack a ‘snow kit’: ice scraper, warm coat, hat, gloves, sturdy boots, a blanket, food and water – and ideally a hot thermos if dodgy weather is forecast. A shovel is also essential when a vehicle gets lodged in heavy snow. Then some old bits of carpet, or cat litter, when placed under the wheels, can get you back on the road.

What if you can’t get unstuck? Running the engine for 10-15 minutes per hour should keep you warm, especially if you’ve packed a snow kit. However, it is vital the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow – as lethal carbon monoxide fumes could enter the car.

In heavy snow or blizzard conditions, the best advice is to stay in or close to the vehicle, as it is easy to become disoriented and lost.

Shiver at the thought…! It might never happen. But it’s best to be prepared.

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