Preventing costly water damage

When water gets out of its contained environment, it can potentially cause damage and destruction beyond imagination. If the source of the water continues to flow for a matter of minutes, hours, or over the weekend, damage can be significant.

Fire sprinkler system pipes

  • Check attics and crawl spaces to make sure there is adequate insulation
  • Have attic pipes covered with pipe insulation in addition to the regular attic insulation
  • Make sure sprinkler system flow detection alarms are in working order
  • Have licensed sprinkler contractors perform annual inspections and maintenance
  • During unusual cold snaps leave a slight opening to attics or crawl space to allow heat from the main building to keep temperatures where pipes are located above freezing
  • Make sure employees know where the shut off valves are and how to use them
  • Plan ahead by contacting a qualified fire sprinkler system company and have them provide written procedures to counteract freeze events with power outages
  • Wet pipe systems should contain antifreeze added by a licensed sprinkler system contractor

Frozen pipes

  • If severe cold snaps are anticipated, consider turning off the main water supply to the building when leaving for the evening
  • Several faucets should be left slightly open so that any water in the pipes can drain out and don’t freeze

Water heaters

  • Perform annual inspections of the underside of the water heaters and all related piping.  If rust is noticed during the annual inspection, the water heater has likely reached the end of its useful life and should be inspected and replaced by a qualified plumber.
  • Make sure the main water supply line to the building is equipped with a pressure regulator value and the setting is within the safe range for the types of pipes the center has
  • Consider installing commercial stop flow devices that detect if water supply to a building is flowing unchecked, and it stops the water supply and the main supply line just inside the building.
  • Assure that all employees know how to turn off the water supply to the building so in the case of an emergency, the water supply can be stopped to reduce the amount of damage.
  • Solar water heating systems have special concerns to ensure if water overheats, it does not cause pipe failure.

Toilets

  • Consider automatic tank shut off valves that detect continuous water flow and automatically stop the flow after a short period of time
  • Make sure toilets, tanks, flow devices, valves, hoses, and flushing devices are commercial quality and able to withstand multiple flushes per day.
  • Make sure teachers check restrooms after children leave to verify no toilets are running and no water is flowing.
  • Verify that all teachers know how to shut off water supply to the toilets and implement a policy to shut off supply lines if continuous flowing or a clog exists
  • Supervise children taking trips to the restrooms to make sure they are not carrying small objects that could be dropped into toilets and flushed
  • All employees should be taught how to turn off the water supply to the individual toilets

Surface water from heavy rainfall

  • Periodic inspections of exterior drainage systems should take place to assure they are not clogged by landscape material, grass clippings or other debris
  • Doors should be fitted with proper systems to keep water from entering the building

Storm and sewer systems

  • Floor drains in kitchens and bathrooms as well as sump pumps in basements and sprinkler rooms should not be connected to sewer lines due to the increased risk of sewage backup into the building
  • Make sure your sewer system has a cleanout access to allow for clearing of blockage in the line
  • Have a qualified plumber install a backflow prevention device which will prevent an overloaded sewer main from backing up into the buildings drain system

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.

For safety or risk management questions or suggestions, please contact Markel.

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