During cold conditions, your business’s equipment is stressed. It’s not just your heating system, but the electrical, the windows and plumbing can all be affected by the cold. Use this checklist to prepare your business for brutal winter conditions.
Protect Your Business During a Cold Snap
When your business faces extreme temperatures, winter weather preparedness is very important. Preparing for winter season includes taking care of your building and your employees:
- Have a chain of accountability within your organization. Ensure maintenance, building owners and business owners are working efficiently to get the building ready. You don’t want to duplicate efforts, but you need to make sure everything is getting done.
- Inspect the building, making sure windows, doors and dampers are closed. Caulk all openings where cold air can enter the building. Have snow and ice removal arranged before you need it. Schedule a maintenance check during a storm or cold weather to keep everything running or at the least, to know when you’ll need to call in repairs.
- Inspect the roof for leaks and debris. Make repairs when necessary.
- Give your employees emergency contact information for snow removal, heating repair, utilities and road conditions. Have a plan for employees who cannot get out in bad weather conditions to keep everyone safe. Get your employees to sign up for weather alerts, either by text or through another app.
- Expect flooding. Keep vulnerable equipment and stock out of harm’s way. Either move it to a location where water can’t reach it, or move it up on raisers.
- Keep cold-weather gear on hand for employees, such as flashlights, blankets, gloves, hats, snow shovels and ice-melt chemicals. Make sure everyone knows where it’s stored and that it’s there for their use.
- Make sure you have a list of client and employee contact information somewhere other than your computer, phone or electronic device. If the power goes down, you may not have access to that information.
- Consider leaving a trickle of water running to keep constant movement in the pipes to prevent freezing. Know where the water shutoff to the building is. Turn off the water if the pipes do freeze, to prevent a leak when the water comes back on.
- If the building does remain empty for a long period of time, have someone assigned who can check indoor temperatures and other issues.
Keeping Your Heating System Operating Efficiently
The heating system not only keeps your employees comfortable during the cold, but it also protects your inventory, equipment and plumbing from freezing. While some of these ideas need to be in place before a cold snap, preparing for winter season will keep your building from being affected in the cold:
- Insulate all pipes. Inspect the sprinkler system and plumbing annually. Replace damaged insulation when necessary.
- Inspect outside dampers. Clear all vents from snow and ice accumulation quickly.
- Your heating unit requires power to operate. Have generators on standby to keep equipment operating through any conditions. At the very least, have non-electrical portable heaters for outages.
- Be prepared to supply back-up power to heat tracing systems, if you have it.
An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, in this case. Protecting your pipes before extreme cold temperatures will prevent many problems, saving you the cost of repairs and downtime.
Protect Electrical Equipment
Cold, freezing conditions can cause power outages and downed wires. When electricity is restored, the sudden surge of power can destroy modern technology that is sensitive to power surges. When cold weather is coming in:
- Unplug equipment, isolating it from the source of power, protecting it from power surges. If the equipment must stay running, have a backup plan. Install surge protectors, batteries or another power source.
- If you plan on relying on generators during a power outage, test them before you need them. Have a plan to refuel generators if the outage is extended.
- When power is restored, plug in devices and turn them on one at a time.
Reminders for Good Measure
- Check your business insurance policies to know what is covered and what isn’t. Know your biggest risks and find ways to minimize loss instead of relying on insurance. Keep the policy number and claim information handy, to know who to call when damage occurs.
- Take pictures of the building before the storm. This will help you identify damage that occurs during a storm.
- Have a procedure for handling damaged equipment and inventory.
- Take pictures of damage. Call the insurance adjuster ASAP.
Have a contingency plan in place if the worse happens. Know who to call for restoration. Have a place to set up temporary shop if a disaster strikes your building. Although you may be limited if your business is a restaurant or retail shop, you should at least stay in touch with customers and clients to limit the impact.