The new calendar says January. That means winter has settled in, and while the season normally batters northern tier states with frigid temperatures and snow, southern states are not always immune from winter’s wrath. In other words, winter weather can cause headaches for club owners and managers no matter where they’re located as they try to keep their facilities, members, guests, and employees as safe as possible.
Cold temperatures and snow are of particular concern during winter months, each capable of causing damage to property and injury to people. And, a by-product of cold and snow is the real scourge of the club industry in winter…ice.
Winter temperatures can reach low enough to wreak havoc on a club’s fire sprinkler system, leaving the club susceptible to fire and the damage it can cause. As a club owner or manager, it’s critical that you be alert to climate changes that could cause freezing and be ready to take the necessary steps to prevent a possible disaster for your club.
The Physics – and Cost – of Frozen Pipes
In any type of fire sprinkler system, you’re dealing with water. When water freezes, it expands within the pipe by 10 percent, which can cause hairline fractures in the pipe. These cracks will go undetected until the next warm up when the ice melts and water begins exiting the pipe, potentially causing major damage to the property. A broken, one-inch pipe can lose up to 60 gallons of water per minute.
The average cost of a burst pipe is at least $30,000 per episode. And, that doesn’t take into account what would happen should a fire break out while the sprinkler system is down. When a fire sprinkler system freezes, the building’s water supply drops. If a fire should occur and a portion of the pipe is blocked by ice, water flow would be hindered, and the nearest sprinkler head may not activate.
The best defense against a frozen sprinkler system is a good offense—that is, ongoing maintenance, testing, and inspection of the system.
All structures on your club’s property that are protected by fire sprinklers should be physically inspected BEFORE cold weather hits. There should be no areas with insufficient heat, and precautions should be in place to make sure the sprinkler system is not exposed to freezing temperatures.
Set all thermostats to 55 degrees or higher at all times.
Do not let ice and snow to accumulate on roofs, windows, and around foundations of your club’s structures.
Your employees should watch for and report any possible cold weather problems.
- The sprinkler system should be inspected annually by a licensed contractor. The contractor should demonstrate to all of your employees how all valves operate. You should then assign to an appropriate employee the responsibility of shutting down the system in the event of a burst pipe.
- Check on your club’s fire protection systems more frequently than normal during cold weather.
If, even after giving it your best shot, Mother Nature gets the upper hand and freezes your fire sprinkler system, you should act immediately to mitigate the possibility of additional damage and to reduce the chances of fire that could devastate your club.
- Contact your local fire department about your sprinkler system being out of service.
- Do NOT attempt to repair the system yourself. Contact the service professional who inspects the system.
- Any hazardous activity should be stopped until the system has been repaired.
- If not already a policy, implement and enforce a No Smoking policy in the area.
- Place additional fire extinguishers throughout the area.
- Until the system is repaired, the affected structure should be monitored 24/7.
If damage does occur to your property and you need to file a claim, contact your insurance provider immediately.
Snow and Ice
While accumulations of snow or ice can damage property, the greater risk they pose are to your members, guests, and employees, causing slips, trips, falls, and back injuries. Removing snow and ice as soon as possible from parking lots, walkways, porches, patios, steps, and entry ways should be a priority during winter.
If your club has its own snow removal equipment, it should be inspected long before the first snow fall:
Snow blowers/snow throwers
If you outsource snow removal, make sure the company you hire is reputable, experienced, and can show proof of liability insurance. Be specific about what you want cleared: just the parking lot, or do you want all areas where people can walk cleared as well?
Regardless of who handles your snow removal, here are a few suggestions of what you can do BEFORE the expected snow fall:
Place tall stakes along the driveway, walkways, and around the parking lot. These stakes show you or your snow removal company where to shovel, plow, or put down ice melt. You may know where the edges of these areas are, but your snow removal company may not.
Clear your parking lot of all vehicles that don’t need to be there.
Make sure you have an adequate supply of sand or ice melt on hand, especially for walkways, steps, porches, and patios.
Your Real Winter Enemy
Ice – whether from melted snow or rain – can be the real enemy in winter. No matter where your club is located in the U.S., you’ve no doubt faced a winter ice storm at some point.
Ice can cause a great deal of bodily harm. Slips, trips, or falls can result in sprained ankles, broken bones, head injuries, or worse. What’s particularly hazardous is ice you can’t see – hidden under a layer of snow, making it extremely slick. Extra caution should always be taken when shoveling snow should there be ice underneath.
Your members and guests will, rightfully so, assume your parking lots, walkways, steps, and porches will be free of ice when they arrive at your club for, as an example, a winter event. Your club could be held liable should an accident occur that harms someone. Your employees should take whatever steps are necessary to clear snow and ice from all areas where people will be walking.
Employee Exposure and Safety
As they do so, your employees should be instructed on how to best clear the snow and ice safely. They are as susceptible to injury as your members and guests. A worker’s comp claim is only a slip, trip, fall, or twisted back away when employees are clearing snow and ice. Your employees should be instructed on the proper use of snow blowers and snow throwers as well as the proper technique for shoveling snow. Older employees are especially susceptible to heart attacks when shoveling snow, especially a heavy snow.
Winter weather is often unpredictable at best, and with it comes particular risks for your club, regardless of location. By being proactive and diligent, you can take certain steps to mitigate those risks to your property, members, guests, and employees. As owner or manager of a club, understanding the exposures your business has allows you to have an educated discussion with your insurance agent or broker who can provide you with the most competitive rates in your area.
David A. Harnois, CCM is a Proud Employee Owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs throughout the world. He may be reached at (973) 984-1000 x111 or at www.affinityclubs.com.
Founded in 2007, Affinity Club Underwriters is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services; operations and coverage audits; policy and information storage and archaeology; RFP preparation; market analysis; and help in developing specific loss control programs.
Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private golf and country club venues. Affinity is the only insurance program administrator led by golf industry experts.