Escape of water – reducing the threat to your commercial property
One of the most significant threats to a commercial property is the escape of water. According to data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI)¹ the number of claims for escape of water in commercial properties in the UK has steadily risen for more than 15 years along with the average cost of a claim.
If a commercial property suffers an escape of water event, the related disaster recovery costs can be substantial and include more than financial loss. You may be looking at an insurance excess, loss of tenant, loss of operational time, of stock, valuable data and management time and even reputational damage.
Therefore, it’s important that you plan effectively to mitigate your risk from escape of water damage. We have some practical advice on how you can protect your commercial property.
The following advice suggests steps you can take to help avoid an escape of water incident, which we would recommend is supported with a comprehensive commercial insurance programme that may include buildings and contents cover, loss of rent/business interruption cover, alternative accommodation costs and loss recovery insurance.
Mitigating escape of water risk in your property
Check your water system. Make sure that it’s in good condition and if it’s not, call in a plumber.
Map your piping. This will allow you to identify areas of vulnerability where damage could occur from delivery vehicles, customers’ cars or even a forklift. Once identified, you can arrange to better protect them, or relocate them.
Ensure that pipes are not located over vital equipment such as electrical boxes or computer servers. If they are, one or the other should be relocated.
Protect your heating system with anti-corrosive additives, to help against corrosion.
Check your pipework on a regular basis. Check for leaks and make sure that overflow pipes are free from obstruction. Overflow pipes from cisterns should be of adequate size and discharge to an appropriate place.
If your pipework passes through walls, it should not be jointed. Joints are potential risk areas and can fail. When hidden in walls a joint failure may go undetected for many months and only become apparent at the point of disaster.
Make sure that the locations of your stop cocks and water main shut off valves are known to staff. You should also check that they are fully operational.
If your commercial property has internally fitted air conditioning units, check the drain lines regularly because they can easily become disconnected.
Store items of stock off the floor on shelves or racking.
Check any flexible connectors regularly. These are likely to be on washbasins, water stations and drinks machines, for example. A failure here is likely to release a large volume of water in a populated area and may leave you with further exposure from slips and falls.
Inspect your roof for signs of vulnerability, particularly if your water tanks or air conditioning units are stored there. Inspections should occur regularly to check for loose or missing tiles/slates, tile/slate damage, or ill-fitting cladding and flashings. Flat roofs are often a cause of issue, so condition should be checked often for splits, cracks, and tears.
It’s also a good idea to check gutters and downpipes for cracks and for obstructions such as leaves or debris.
Take extra care as winter approaches
These are recommendations for any time of year, but as winter approaches and the temperatures drop, there are also some specific actions that are advisable to prevent an escape of water disaster.
Pipes are more likely to freeze in the winter months which can lead to burst pipes. It’s a good idea to identify and make accessible isolation points so you can stop the flow of water if necessary.
Lag any exposed pipework or water storage tanks. If there are some pipes located where the buildings heating system will not make a difference, trace heating should be installed.
You should try and maintain the building temperature above freezing at all times, especially if the premises is unoccupied. Set ‘low temperature building frost stats’ on your heating system. For large buildings this might be at least 10°C, because if set lower than this, the extremities of the building could still be below freezing.
Ensure the boiler/heating system is serviced annually and test everything before the cold season starts.
If you operate a company shutdown over holiday periods, ensure the property is regularly inspected in this period.
We recommend that you have your insurance company helpline details easily available so you can contact them quickly in the event of an emergency.
Working with a risk management partner to help you create systems to put in place and arrange a comprehensive insurance solution is advisable.
¹ABI 30th April 2019 claims report
Specialist independent broking and risk management
At Barnes Commercial we support our clients with honest, independent advice to help protect their business against commercial risk. We will work closely with you, to understand the risks your business faces now and anticipate those that you may face in the future. An escape of water extension would form part of a wider material damage policy package, which we would build to your needs following our discussions with you.
Find out more about our risk management services here.
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