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PREVENTING ROOF COLLAPSE
Snow is heavy; ice even heavier. Depending on the building age, type of roof and other design parameters, excessive snow and ice can cause serious property damage, or even roof collapse, under worst-case conditions. Contributing to roof collapse are the rapid freeze and thaw cycles that occur throughout the winter. Ice can quickly accumulate, blocking roof drains. Then, the weight of the ice and snow buildup can overload a roof above its design parameters resulting in collapse. The following risk control best practices will help you reduce the likelihood of this situation developing.
RISK CONTROL BEST PRACTICES
To lessen the chances of serious property damage due to snow and ice accumulation on the roof: Clear accumulation of snow from the roof, particularly in areas of different elevations where drifts quickly build up. If a roof is susceptible to large snow drifts, is in an area with heavy snowfall, or is difficult or hazardous to access, initiate a formal snow removal program with a local contractor qualified for roof snow removal with trained staff and proper equipment (shovels, snow blowers) and the appropriate safety planning for those workers/contractors. Equipment that can damage a roof, e.g., ice chopper, blowtorch (a fire hazard!), should never be used. Keep an updated winter emergency response plan in effect, especially for snow removal. Include emergency contact
numbers for qualified contractors and the building landlord (if leasing the building). Verify that drains are clear to allow run-off of melting snow. If the roof is pitched and without drains, open paths to the eaves to ensure drainage and prevent ponding of water. Regularly inspect roof drains and remove any debris that could prevent flow. Make sure exterior down spouts are clear of snow or ice at the outlets. Be alert for the beginning of ponding-deflection cycles. As snow compresses and absorbs rainwater, the increased weight on the roof will result in depressions that will not drain. Once this condition begins it only gets worse, and if appropriate action is not taken, the roof could eventually collapse. IMPORTANT: Keep the roof well maintained and do roof repairs and covering replacements as soon as required.
George Pavlov, PE
Senior Property Risk Control Consultant Willis Strategic Outcomes Practice
416 68 9641
Joe Stavish, PE
National Technical Director, Property Risk Control
Willis Strategic Outcomes Practice
97 829 2955