January 1, 2017Preventing Frozen Pipes
Freezing weather often approaches unexpectedly and many organizations find themselves unprepared. Organizations with buildings located in a moderate climate are often more at risk of facing frozen pipes and water damage due to the lack of experience or attention given to cold weather preparation.
When water freezes, it expands up to ten percent in volume. It is important to note that fire sprinkler pipes tend to freeze before other water pipes because the water is not moving. When water freezes in a sprinkler pipe, it creates an obstruction that can make the system inoperable during a fire. As ice in the pipe expands, added pressure can cause the pipe to burst.
As freezing temperatures approach, the following guidelines will help organizations identify areas venerable to freezing conditions and provide tips for prevention of frozen pipes.
Prior to Cold Weather:
- Develop a water intrusion plan that includes winterization.
- Identify buildings, equipment, processes and piping (wet and dry) that are dependent upon heat (or above freezing temperatures) for safety and proper operation; this may include sprinkler piping, domestic water piping, sewer piping and any process that contains a liquid vulnerable to freezing.
- Minimize the exterior openings to all buildings, especially vacant buildings.
- Drain liquids from any idle equipment and piping where appropriate.
During Cold Weather:
- Monitor weather temperatures in vulnerable areas. Critical operations and areas should be monitored with low temperature alarms connected to a monitoring station.
- Close windows, vents and doors of buildings and insulate where possible. Tarps may be used to provide temporary wind breaks.
- Increase security rounds in areas that are susceptible to pipe freezing and water damage.
- Maintain an inside temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Place portable heaters in areas that may be subject to freezing. Conduct routine inspections of portable heaters.
NOTE: Fires often result from the misuse of temporary heaters. When purchasing or renting a temporary heater, the heater should carry the Underwriters Laboratories listed label. Temporary heaters also should have standard safety controls, such as high-temperature cut-outs, flame supervision, flame failure and preset safety regulators. Heaters must be placed away from combustible materials and operated according to manufactures instructions.
In the event all efforts fail to keep a building heated and temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it may be necessary to shut off and completely drain wet pipe fire sprinkler systems to prevent further damage. Any sprinkler system shut down must be done for the shortest possible duration and fire system impairment procedures must be followed.
- If pipes freeze, turn off the water supply and repair the damaged piping. If the frozen pipe is part of a fire sprinkler system, Fire Impairment Procedures should be implemented.
- Do not use open flames to thaw frozen pipes or other equipment.
Should you have further questions on cold weather preparation for you building, please do not hesitate to contact Alliant Risk Control Consulting at RiskControl@Alliant.com.
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