Risk management

Risk management

Strategies for defending against water damage

Water can be a true adversary to a business. When this assailant descends on a facility, it can do some real damage -- often impacting wood floors, mats, ceilings, walls, supplies, computers and other electronics. You can implement a strategy to defend against possible water damage by understanding what causes these events.

Based on Markel’s claims history, water damage often occurs from heavy rain, resulting in roof leaks, or pipe failure due to wear and tear, poor maintenance and upkeep, and pipes bursting after freezing. (Please refer to your policy for any questions related to covered perils and potential exclusions). Also, check with your insurance agent to confirm you have the proper coverage before a loss occurs. 

You can prevent water damage by regularly inspecting your property.

  • Check plumbing. Look for leaking fixtures, dripping and deteriorating pipes, (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains, and defective water-drainage systems.
  • Inspect foundations and exterior walls. Look for cracks in the foundation and walls where water can gain access to your building. 
  • Survey your gutter systems -- during a rain event if possible. Does water flow from the downspout or does it overflow the gutter? 
  • Check interior walls and ceiling paying particular attention to water stains that may develop after a heavy rain or hail storm. Can you identify their origin?
  • Inspect windows for signs of leaking and also inspect the weather stripping to ensure it is intact and provides a protective seal.
  • If you can gain access to your roof, check for areas of damage. Also inspect flashings around exhaust vents to make sure they are in good condition.
  • Gain the assistance of license contractors to inspect your sprinkler systems, water heaters, and plumbing to ensure the systems are working properly and there are no defects.

To keep pipes from freezing and rupturing:

  • Plan to inspect your pipes. If your facility is going to be unoccupied for more than 24 hours, inspect your pipes once a day for freezing.
  • Keep your heat on. If you close during the holidays, heating expenses incurred while closed are far less costly than having to close your facility for water damage repair.
  • Open interior cabinet doors and attic access doors. To keep pipes from freezing under sinks, open cabinet doors allowing warmer room air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Insulate exposed pipes. Cold air can harm unprotected water pipes, so cover pipes with foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves. This can help reduce the likelihood of them freezing.
  • Let water drip. If pipes start to freeze, let water drip slowly through an open faucet to help prevent pipes from bursting.
  • Seal all openings to the outdoors. 

Pipes that rupture due to freezing or accidental sprinkler system discharges can result in extensive water damage to floors, walls, carpets, furniture, equipment, and important electronics like computers, printers, phones, and copiers. While the electronics themselves can be replaced, important business records can be lost indefinitely if computers are damaged. Protect equipment with a cover before you leave each day. Elevate computers off the floor to reduce their exposure to potential rising water. These preventative measures can help prevent you from suffering downtime during wintry weather. 

Additional proactive measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of a water damage loss include:

  • Consider installing a water detection alert system. There are a variety of systems available, so do your homework to make sure you get the best one for your business.
  • Never hang items from sprinkler heads.
  • Establish and practice an emergency response plan designed to respond to water leaks and intrusions. Familiarize your staff on what to do should a pipe rupture. Consider consulting with a commercial plumber or local fire department for tips.
  • Clearly label water shut-off valves for easy locations in the event of an emergency.  This will help facilitate a quick shut down of water supply lines.
  • Maintain and post for easy access emergency phone numbers for fire, police, HVAC and plumbing specialists, and a water extraction specialist.
  • Protect vital records. Preserving your records makes it easier to get your business up and running after an emergency. Vital records include financial and insurance information, personnel and client files, administrative and collections information, and engineering plans and drawings. You can easily store critical information on external storage devices or in secured cloud storage. Also consider shipping copies of printed data to offsite locations or storage facilities. Make sure these facilities are located away from coastal areas and flood plains.

If you have a water damage emergency, you can make temporary repairs to reduce the likelihood of additional property damage. You do not need specific authorization from your insurance agent or Markel to do so. Refer to your policy to determine what constitutes temporary repairs. 

For more information on water damage and other risk management topics, be sure to visit the Markel Risk Management Library.

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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