Staying cool during a freeze-up

Frozen pipes: why they occur and how to avoid them

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 – HIROC News

Wind, rain, extreme heat, frigid temperatures…for better or worse, Canadians seem to experience it all. The variability of our climate is such that we have to adapt and prepare for anything.
For HIROC subscribers, year-round preparedness is paramount, yet property incidents can still follow seasonal trends, especially when we are faced with winter cold snaps and deep freezes. During these colder months we tend to see higher numbers of cases of weather-related incidents like frozen or burst pipes – a common yet potentially very costly event.


Why do freeze-ups occur?

While our healthcare facilities are normally built with climate in mind, freeze incidents typically result from changes in the facility, such as a water heater breaking down or simply a window left open. 
Pipes or sprinklers near doors and windows are frequently at risk. If there is frozen water in the piping it can expand, causing a weak point in the pipe to crack or to give way at a joint. Any unfrozen water will start leaking out.


How to avoid freeze-ups:

  • Ensure the building’s envelope is in good condition and close any unnecessary openings.
  • Monitor the temperature of susceptible areas, such as concealed spaces, eaves, areas with no direct heat, stairwells, and large doors that are often open.
  • Make sure all fire pump suction lines, wet pits or suction tanks are properly maintained.
  • For idle or vacant buildings, ensure temperature monitoring is in place at all times.
  • Have emergency heaters and back-up power ready to go.
  • Assess the quality of sprinkler lines and pipes near doorways.
  • Ensure the building alarm is connected to a security service or by a continuously touring watch service.
  • Account for human error such as windows and doors left ajar.
  • Arrange frequent meetings with facility staff to assess the facility as well as freeze plans.
The most important thing is to keep freeze hazards top of mind in winter months. In areas where freezing temperatures are common it’s easy to overlook the small areas that can make a difference. Make sure all staff are trained to know the signs and how to act in the event of a freeze-up.
Above are just a few of the common tips to avoid frozen pipes. For a more extensive list, review FM Global’s Freeze-up Emergency Checklist. Also refer to HIROC’s Risk Reference Sheet on Water Damage.
Subscribers with questions about freeze-ups and property coverage can reach out to Shahbaz Haque, HIROC’s Manager, Brokerage Operations at