Melt the Ice: Freezing Weather Prep

Powerful winter weather continues to make headlines, affecting a majority of regions throughout the country. We've seen freezes happen as early as October and into May. Even if your area isn’t affected by snow, sleet, high winds, or other winter weather hazards, you may be seeing temperatures drop 20 degrees below what’s normally expected. This is especially problematic for buildings that were not designed for freezing temps, like those in warmer climates.

Weather like this causes pipes to burst, creates dangerous sidewalks and lots, and can knock out power for days or weeks. You can help minimize damage with careful preparation and the following tips: 

  • Get to know your sprinkler system. Monitor your systems using a central station that provides early detection of a pipe failure. Make sure to maintain the temperature in the control rooms.

  • Locate your water supply valves. If a pipe bursts, time is critical. Take time to learn where valves are located for all buildings in advance of bad weather. Keep the tools to close the valves nearby. Be sure to include areas with baptisteries, laundry rooms, and water heaters in your search.

  • Turn up the heat to above 55 degrees. Check the thermostat in all rooms to ensure the setting. You may be tempted to lower the heat to save energy costs, but that can have unintended consequences. You may save money on heating bills but frozen or burst water pipes can disrupt your ministry and cost thousands to repair. Make sure your heat is running and never set your thermostat below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Open cabinet doors to plumbing under sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around the exposed pipes. (Note: This is especially important for ministries located in warm weather climates to check that the heat will come on if temperatures drop and or designate someone to turn the heat on when you learn freezing weather is on its way.)

  • Prop open room doors and cabinet doors beneath sinks to keep heat circulating throughout the building.

  • Let faucets drip to keep water moving inside pipes.

  • Move vehicles off the lot and away from trees. A concrete parking garage is best, if possible. If not, allow staff to take home vehicles to spread your risk of damage.

  • Prevent damage from high winds. Before a storm, verify that sign connections are adequate or remove the sign and safely store it. Store outdoor equipment in a safe location. Identify and remove trees and branches that could fall on the building walls or roof, or on power lines.

  • Prep the generator. The goal is to maintain heat in the building, even if a big freeze takes down power lines.

  • Clear gutters of debris to allow melting snow to drain. Obstructions cause “ice dams” that block drainage and damage your roof. Check drains on flat roofs and remove leaves and other material.

  • Clear the snow and ice. Keep an eye on the roof when snow piles up. If an excessive amount falls, or the snow is blocked from sliding down the roof, it may be time to act. Either use a long-handled roof rake or call a licensed contractor to remove it safely. Don’t climb onto the roof to remove snow. Climbing onto an already stressed and slick roof can be dangerous.

  • Designate staff and/or volunteers in advance to clear sidewalks and parking lots of snow. Put snow shovels, salt, and entryway mats in easy-to-access locations.

Finally, keep emergency numbers close. Create a list of numbers that includes your insurance agent, plumber, water restoration company, heating contractor, electrician, and utility companies.

More Freezing Weather Resources for Ministries

Posted July 2023