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The Cold Hard Facts about Freeze – 22 December 2010

LONDON, UK—FM Global, one of the world’s largest industrial and commercial property insurers, is advising that business loss from freeze can be avoided with proper prevention processes and sound pre-planning.

Freeze – accompanied by plummeting temperature, fierce wind and/or heavy snow – can collapse roofs, rupture pipes, flood building perimeters and bring business to a halt. It can happen anywhere.

Even a minor freeze-up can interrupt production and prove costly. Many processes and equipment vital to day-to-day operations are at risk such as process piping, compressors and compressed air lines, instrumentation and control lines, values and fittings, heating and air conditioning equipment, steam piping, boilers, water tanks, fire pumps, sprinklers and underground water mains.

With the earliest widespread snowfall in 17 years, it seems that winter has arrived early for many of us in the UK and Ireland. As a result your facilities could be exposed to freeze related damage. In January 2010 FM Global clients in the UK experienced around 100 freeze related losses and impairments during the spell of cold weather.

Below are a number of precautions, resources, and best advice for preparing your facility and sprinkler systems against the cold weather this winter:

• Protect the building envelope – make sure building openings are closed off and sealed.
• Confirm that building heating is operational and that fuel supplies are stocked up.
• Monitor roofs for snow accumulation, paying particular attention to snow drifting at changes in roof elevation. Clear snow before it reaches unsafe levels.
• For outdoor piping (sprinkler related or otherwise) inspect and test trace heating systems and confirm that insulation is in place.
• Check that dry pipe systems have not tripped and filled with water.
• Drain all low points in dry-pipe systems. Check the pitch of piping and the condition of pipe hangers to make sure that water is not trapped in branch lines.
• Check fire pump rooms and sprinkler valve rooms (including dry pipe valves) for adequate heating (should be at least 4°C). For diesel-engine drivers, the minimum temperature of the room should be 21°C. 
• Ensure the test return line from the pump house back to the suction line is fully drained.
• Check hydrants and sprinkler control valves for tightness. Repair any leaks.
• Make frequent checks of critical areas and equipment, monitor temperatures in hard to heat areas, especially if sprinkler pipework runs through the area.
• If any ice plugs are found, take special care when thawing the frozen piping and equipment, avoid open flames (i.e. do not use torches or arc welding equipment to thaw the pipes in place).

Vice President and Operations Manager of FM Global’s UK operations, Stefano Tranquillo, said: “As freeze is currently a very pertinent issue in the UK, businesses need to be prepared for potential further cold weather ahead. They need to understand their potential freeze scenario and ensure that they have an effective winter contingency plan in place. We believe that the majority of all property loss is preventable and the key to preventing freeze loss is to fully understand the exposure of your site. Once a clear picture of what to expect has been developed, which includes an estimate of the damage and disruption to a business, action can be taken to reduce the risk.”

For more information on winter contingency plans please find a full copy of FM Global’s Freeze-Up Checklist attached.

About FM Global 
FM Global (www.fmglobal.co.uk ) works with many of the world’s largest organisations to develop robust property insurance and engineering solutions to protect their business operations from fire, natural disasters and other types of property risk. In recent years, FM Global has been named “Best Property Insurer in the World” by Euromoney magazine, “Best Global Property Insurer” by Global Finance magazine and received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The company is rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best and AA (Very Strong) by Fitch Ratings. In the United Kingdom, FM Global is the communicative name for FM Insurance Company Limited, which is regulated by the Financial Services Authority.