By Jim Breitkreitz, Vice President of Property Services, Risk Engineering, Zurich North America
Recent hurricanes from the last few years have caused billions of dollars in water losses. These events have overshadowed discussion on non-catastrophe (non-CAT) damage from water events, which can cause significant business damage to commercial properties such as offices, warehouses, hotels and medical facilities. According to Zurich’s claims data, non-CAT water damage is one of the leading causes of loss across property claims. As a risk, facility or safety manager, are you aware of your water exposures?
Water damage can come from myriad sources. Broken and frozen pipes, valves, fire safety sprinkler systems and roof leak damage are just a few examples.
Businesses that experience large water damage losses can face costly repairs and replacement costs, employee displacement and business disruption. In addition to direct financial costs, consider factors such as ease of machinery replacement or repair, possible mold remediation and loss of access to premises. All can impact productivity, as well as employee morale.
Do you have a plan in place if a water leak is discovered? Do your employees or residents know what to do if they see a water issue?
The first step to a solid water damage mitigation program is to have a robust water prevention and loss control program in place for your property. If you do not, I encourage you to review and begin implementing a program like Zurich’s ACURE program. This program can help you identify water risk exposures and provide actionable insights and steps toward preventing and responding to water events.
Whether you have a program in place now or need to develop and implement one, now is the time to build technology into your program to help manage and reduce water related events.
Broken and frozen pipes, roof leaks and accidental fire sprinkler system discharges can’t always be prevented. However, a water leak detection system can help you identify and respond more quickly, even when you do not have personnel on site or the exposures are located in less conspicuous areas of the building. What’s more, advances in technology have brought systems to market that are easier to install and manage while driving prices to a point that these systems can often pay for themselves within one or two events.
When you look at common sources of non-CAT water damage, a properly installed leak detection system makes sense, especially for properties that have high frequency or high loss exposures. A one-inch cracked pipe flowing at nine gallons per minute can release the equivalent of a 50-gallon water heater in about six minutes. A properly placed water detector can notify you and allow you to respond and shut off the water more quickly, thus reducing the impact.
A couple other pieces of technology to consider are automatic shut-off valves and temperature monitoring. Automatic shut-off valves will automatically shut off the flow of water to a connected pipe when they are triggered, while temperature sensors can help you identify and respond to areas where pipes may freeze and burst.
Technology in water and temperature detection has developed to a point that these systems can cost-effectively improve your water damage mitigation program. I encourage you to research and consider making it part of your program.