Hot Tips to Prepare Facilities for Cold Winter Weather

preparing facilities for winter

Ensure Your Winter Prep Checklist and Management Plan is Up-to-Date

If you want to acknowledge the obvious or show solidarity for your fellow facility manager’s hard work, you can say that their job is a 24/7 career—rain, snow, sleet, or shine. They must know and be prepared for what’s happening around the clock inside and outside their facilities.

With the weather cooling and changing into fall, now is an excellent time to put wintry weather best practices in place before the snow flies. We offer tips or friendly reminders as facility managers (FMs) prepare for winter conditions by executing their seasonal facility management plans and checklists.

1. Inspect Facilities and Review Resources

We recommend managers assess several areas of the property and facility through the lens of a winter weather maintenance and management plan. You can share the plan or relevant elements to enhance communication with occupants and employees.

Knowing your available labor, equipment, and other capital resources is essential. Having everyone on the same page can prevent chaos if a crisis develops and ensure people know their roles during the upcoming season.

Here are some areas to inspect and develop a plan of action to manage:

  • Parking lots, structures, and exterior pavement: Look for cracks, holes, and low spots. Pay more attention to high-traffic areas. Puddles, ice, and water intrusion can further damage these developing problems and create safety hazards.
  • Curbs, sewer lines, and drains: Inspect drainage systems around your property and facilities. Plan to keep curbs and drains clean of waste, rocks, and other debris. Consider marking these systems and fire hydrants with flags or poles. Sewer caps should be flush with the pavement for smooth snow plowing.
  • Roof, gutters, and drain pipes: Analyze your roof’s ability to handle the heavy load of snow and ice and prevent leaks or even collapse. Consider its longevity, strength, and if this winter could be more extreme. Look for holes, cracks, unsecured seals and flashing, and missing shingles. Ensure proper water flow in drainage pipes and ditches.
  • Windows, doors, insulation, entryways, and exits: Are you already feeling a draft in some areas on cool autumn days? Determine ways to avoid wasting operating funds toward wasted energy resources. Plumbing in walls along or near the outside of buildings needs appropriate insulation. Inspect the seals of doors and windows. Plan to keep entryways and exits clear of snow, ice, and water.

In 2022, State Farm paid over $181M for nearly 9,000 claims from frozen pipe damage, with the average claim just over $20,000.

—Water & Ice: Not So Nice—The State Farm Newsroom

get your facility ready for winter

2. Stay Proactive and Predictive

With the momentum you’ve built monitoring climate, facility, and equipment conditions with a wide variety of IoT sensors during the other seasons—winter won’t be much different. The goal is to remain vigilant and proactive with the trending data you collect and analyze.

Based on this data and your facility and property inspection, go into full planning mode. Add to your checklist how you plan to:

  • Protect landscaping and facilities from deicers.
  • Reevaluate the performance of your snow removal company or staff.
  • Plow and pile snow around your buildings and parking spaces.
  • Accommodate the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Based on your predictive data, maintain HVAC systems and generators.
  • Communicate facility closures and maintenance during snowstorms.

It’s also a prime time after your pre-winter facility inspection to consider where you could install additional sensors, ensuring you’re monitoring everything you should in and around your facilities.

For example:

  • Are ALTA Wireless Water Detection Puck and Rope Sensors strategically placed where water intrusion from frozen, burst pipes, malfunctioning boilers, and melting ice and snow could be a problem?
  • Do you have enough ALTA Temperature Sensors monitoring sensitive areas, equipment, and inventory?
  • Do you have ALTA Differential Air Pressure Sensors installed for backup monitoring if you have vents or you’re running make-up air units (MAUs) that could get clogged with snow?
  • Are you tracking HVAC performance with ALTA HVAC Sensors and Meters in areas and rooms where temperatures fluctuate, and tenant comfort is a significant concern?
  • Have you considered a versatile ALTA MultiStage Thermostat that controls conventional, heat pump, and dual fuel HVAC systems with up to three heating and two cooling stages?

By inviting key personnel to actively participate in the inspection, planning, monitoring, and protection stages, facility managers can ease the load of the winter preparation process.

3. Protect People and Equipment

Winter safety plans, communication, and processes help protect managers from liability risk and the people they serve from harm. Once you’ve completed your winter inspections and developed a maintenance plan, you can move into action and prevention mode with sensor data on your side.

Some additional tasks to add to your checklist include:

  • Shut off all landscape drain irrigation and hoses.
  • Place snow shovels and deicer containers at each building entrance.
  • Have caution signs at the ready when necessary.
  • Keep the thermostats set to a minimum of 55°F.
  • Monitor and mop potentially wet floors from wet shoes and boots.
  • Time and prioritize snow removal operations so work and traffic functions safely.
  • Stay engaged with the National Weather Service for your area.

Like facility management during other seasons, preparation is critical to success. Following these three steps, you can manage snow and ice storms and the entire winter with greater expertise.

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