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Sprinkler management over Christmas and new year

Last year was one of the worst on record for bad weather, as heavy snowfall and ice wreaked havoc on the UK's business operations.

Winter is here once again and, while at the moment it is unseasonably mild, it could once more be a trying and difficult few months weather-wise.

According to recent research by R3, the insolvency organisation, any adverse weather this winter will significantly affect the operations of the majority of UK businesses.

"Last year the weather caught us all off guard and the detrimental economic impact was widely reported," said R3 president Frances Coulson.

"It seems as though a few days of icy weather this year could easily snowball into a financial disaster, especially for struggling businesses. They should be planning for the worst to avoid taking a real hit if trading suffers."

Effective property management is essential over the Christmas and new year period. While it's certainly the case that not as many companies completely down tools for the Christmas and new year period like they once did, many firms will still be shutting up shop for a few weeks to enjoy the festivities.

This shutdown – some companies will be off for festive drinks at dinnertime on Friday and won't be returning until January 3rd – brings with it a share of associated risks – particularly in the shape of those thrown up by on-site sprinkler systems and connecting water pipes.

If your sprinkler system freezes and there is a fire on-site the damage to property, and the associated costs, could be significant.

The Association of British Insurers says: "As many businesses close for several days at a time over the new year period, they also need to make sure their premises are properly protected and checked during the break. This will help avoid any nasty surprises when they open up again for business."

To that end, it is crucial firms put in place effective business continuity plans to ensure that the pieces of equipment they have in place to protect their premises do not end up doing the exact opposite.

Sprinkler systems – designed to meet the potential fire hazard within a building – come in two main designs: wet pipe systems and alternate wet and dry systems.

Ensuring your sprinkler system works properly over winter is crucial.

In order to, it is imperative that heating levels are maintained, even when there is no-one in the building.

In spells of freezing weather, and especially if the building will be empty for a long period, it's essential that heating is maintained throughout the property to prevent frost damage, which could significantly impact on your sprinkler system.

However, leaving your heating system on the usual temperature setting will sadly not suffice – there are a number of factors that will affect the level of temperature that will be needed to keep pipes and equipment ticking over smoothly.

For example – the absence of people and working machinery during periods when premises are not in use must be factored in when you determine the heating level, as these both can cause the temperature to rise.

Moreover, a sudden drop in temperature during a cold snap will mean temperature control settings must be taken into account.

It's also pivotal that water pipes are checked, especially any that are in particularly vulnerable areas.

Lagging and trace heating helps to insulate pipes and provides a good level of protection, so is certainly a good idea. If you have lagging, conduct a check to ensure it is all in functional condition.

Also, remember that wet and dry sprinkler systems, which are charged with air, not water, during the winter, still contain water in the control valves and pump rooms.

There are other steps you can take. Conduct a thorough sweep of your premises and ensure that all windows and doors are properly shut to make sure no draughts can get through.

Protection of water systems requires no extra-special level of technical expertise, just a pro-active approach and a good awareness of local conditions. By being alert to your surroundings and putting plans in place you'll be doing all you can to ensure your property is just as it was when you locked up for Christmas.

Further reading

See Aviva's Knowledge Store document on sprinkler installations and water supplies.ADNFCR-2134-ID-801247702-ADNFCR