Preparing for a Major Weather Event
Property, business activity, and tenant safety are at stake
Dangerous weather events like hurricanes and major snow storms don’t sneak up on us unexpectedly. If you’re a roof consultant, or a property or facility manager, tenants and their customers are not going to cut you any slack if the building’s roof experiences preventable damage.
The worst thing a property management firm can do is to procrastinate before taking precautions, observes CKR Property Management CEO Caroline Kane in an article she prepared for Forbes. “Weather,” she writes, “is happening all around you. There’s no reason that it should happen to you.” Here are ways you can prepare for a major weather event.
Partners in preparation
The National Apartment Association tells members that educating residents may be even more essential than your own preparation for a storm. Your building tenants may not be paying attention. It’s wise to have a plan in place that includes advising them of approaching dangerous weather. You have both your property and the wellbeing of tenants to consider.
Zurich Insurance gathered and shared some sobering statistics about safety during the winter months. Ice and snow contribute to more people being injured or killed during the winter months than other times of the year. The organization recommends reducing property damage and accidents by having a written winter hazard control program in place that includes information and preparation checklists.
One important way you can stay prepared is to stay abreast of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) seasonal outlook reports.
Up on the rooftop
Major weather events during the winter can dump dangerous accumulations of snow on roofs – especially if they are flat. It creates the potential for structural overload, which can lead to collapse. Recent additions of rooftop installations such as data dishes or even solar panels contribute both additional load and might create opportunities for snow drifts.
It’s important to have an assessment by a commercial roof professional to inspect for potential problems. They can confirm the roof’s snow load capacity and help you to create a roof snow removal plan. Technology can help, too. There are snow roof alarm systems available that offer automatic monitoring and create real-time alerts. The need for a snow load monitoring and removal program is even more important for older commercial buildings. Before 1993, ASCE building codes allowed for lower roof snow-load requirements.
A year-round effort
Weather around the world is changing and increasing hazards. We might get a warning to prepare, but the intensity of a weather event can still catch us off-guard. Historic Hurricane Sandy had only 70 mph winds when it came ashore Atlantic City, New Jersey in 2012. Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina with sustained winds of 90 mph, menacing the entire east coast and ultimately causing 51 fatalities.
Meanwhile, a major snowstorm the day after Easter this year brought accumulations of more than two inches an hour to places like New York City. It left more than 17,000 homes and businesses in Pennsylvania without power. More recently, Winter Storm Avery produced unexpectedly high snowfalls throughout the northeast, freezing commuter rail train switches and causing a 10-hour commute home for some New Yorkers.
Preparation for these weather events has to occur before the seasons which generate them. It begins with understanding what types of weather events might actually be capable of occurring in your area. These maps of historical hurricane, tornado, and tsunami strikes might surprise you.
The Facility Executive website reminds us that a commercial roof system is the buildings first line of defense from natural hazards. It’s an investment and a commitment. They recommend a year-round proactive approach that prepares for the upcoming season as the current season ends.