Protect from Hidden Freeze Loss

Finding it is Job #1

"When it comes to the freeze hazard, it's the stuff that we can't see that's often of most concern," says Katherine Klosowski, vice president and manager of natural hazards and structures at FM Global. The pipe behind the wall without adequate insulation. The sprinkler riser in the parking garage that stands unprotected where the water and air meet. Under winter conditions, these can become major freeze losses.

"A power outage will result in a disruption, but if the building loses heat, the freeze can cause a much bigger disaster," Klosowski explains. "Most people don't realize they have a problem until the weather warms up or the power comes back on. Water expands when it freezes and will crack pipes, but the leaks don't start until the water thaws again. And those are difficult to find and repair when the pipes are behind a wall or above a ceiling."

Also at risk are locations that are protected by dry sprinklers. "The areas near the dry-pipe valve and air compressor need to be at least 40°F/3°C," she indicates. "This is especially important when the power is out or temperatures are below normal for more than a day."

Even geography plays a role in freeze loss. "It's common to think that only warm climate areas like orange groves are at risk of the freeze hazard," Klosowski says. "However, loss history shows that the hazard is just as prevalent in areas accustomed to cold weather. The extreme cold brought by polar vortexes has caused lots of freeze damage, especially when facilities are shut down for a weekend or holiday.

"Production equipment often generates a lot of heat, but only when operating," she explains. "Facilities personnel will turn down the heat to save money. Either of these measures, combined with extreme cold, can lead to frozen pipes and lots of headaches."

Questions to ask:

  • Do you have potential freeze exposures?
  • If so, have you prepared to prevent freeze?
  • How can you best minimize potential damage and impact to operations?

Download FM Global's Freeze-Up Checklist


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