Cold snaps in the last 12 months have prompted many questions and many businesses suffered major disruption due to the extreme conditions and, with winter firmly upon us again, it should be of paramount importance that we look to protect ourselves.

Winter weather doesn’t just cause business operational problems and slow down normal trading. It can cause an escape of water due to frozen pipes and tanks which damages your premises and can take months to put right. Business stock and equipment can be ruined resulting in a loss of income whilst repairs take place, causing a great deal of stress and inconvenience during a very difficult trading period.

We recommend you take action now and follow some simple steps to minimise the risk of water damage:

  • Insulate all water pipes and tanks in the building which could be liable to freezing, particularly those in roof voids
  • Locate your main stop cock where the water enters the property – make sure all staff know where and how to stop the water in the event of an emergency. Test the stop cock now to ensure it is in working order
  • Ensure that insulation in roof voids is not under the cold tank and goes over pipe work not under. If you are planning or are forced to close your business premises during the winter months or just prior to your festive closure we recommend the following:
  • Make sure someone regularly inspects the building, knows the location of the stop cock and who to contact in the event of an emergency. Early detection will help to minimise damage should pipes freeze
  • Where possible leave the heating system on, if not possible turn water off at the mains and drain the pipes and tanks
  • Store stock off the floor where possible
  • Make sure all employees know what to do in the event of a burst pipe or leak, have a list of emergency contacts such as plumbers easily accessible
  • Revisit your Business Continuity Plan to make sure it is up to date or create one or speak to your professional insurance advisor. Check your sums insured are correct and that your Business Interruption indemnity period is sufficient to cover a major disruption to your business
  • Consider backing up any computer records and storing them off site-what will you need to continue to run your business and support any business interruption claim
  • Ensure that any unique paper documents are protected or stored off site or copied
  • Refresh your knowledge of your areas of responsibility if you are a tenant and ensure you have emergency contact details for the landlord or managing agent
  • If the premises are unoccupied or become unoccupied you should notify your insurance advisor. Water should be turned off at the mains. Escape of water can be prevented – by following the advice above you could stop it from happening to you.

Burst Pipe

  1. Turn off the water supply.

Turn off the main stop tap – turn it fully clockwise. You should find where the service pipe enters the building. Drain the system by turning on all your cold taps. If water has been leaking through for some time and the ceilings are bulging – be careful, it may not be safe to enter. If safe, carefully punch a hole to let the water escape, and catch the water in buckets placed underneath. Again be careful in case the ceiling collapses. If in doubt do not touch the ceiling.

  1. Turn off water heating systems

Switch off the heating system. Once water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to help drain the system.

  1. Turn off the electrics

If water leaks near electrics or electrical appliances, switch off the mains immediately. If it is wet, don’t touch the fuse box.

  1. Call a professional to repair the damage

Electrical wiring damaged by water can be very dangerous – you will need to call in a professional if this happens. Contact a reliable plumber to repair the burst or frozen pipe(s).

Frozen Pipe (if pipe is frozen but not burst)

A frozen pipe is also an emergency, because this will cause it to burst resulting in thawed water pouring from the break. The following steps describe what you should do as soon as you discover a frozen pipe:

  1. Turn off the water supply

Turn off the main stop tap. You should find this where the service pipe enters the building. Turn off the stopcock in your cold water tank if you have one.

  1. Beat the burst

Protect everything around the pipe that appears to be frozen to avoid damage if it bursts. Remove items like furniture and stock and cover floor coverings (where practical) near where the frozen pipe is located.

  1. Thawing out

Open the tap nearest to the part of the pipe you think is frozen so the water can flow through when it has melted. Thaw the ice in the pipe with a hot water bottle or hairdryer (taking care to keep it well away from any water), beginning from the tap end and working back toward the cold water tank. Never use a heat gun or blow torch.