The past several years have seen exceptionally severe winter weather, including record levels of snowfall in some regions of the world. These harsh conditions wreak havoc on building roofs, and a number of collapses have been reported. Roof collapses can be devastating to a business and its workers, with costs in the millions. Here are some ways to assess your risk of a roof collapse, and how to mitigate such risks.
High Altitude Construction
In general, roofs built in high altitude regions are specifically designed to withstand severe weather conditions and heavy snowfalls. As these conditions move further south and into lower altitude regions, contractors may want to look at these stronger construction techniques.
Danger Factors for Collapse
It is important to keep in mind the factors involved in the risk of roof collapse. These include:
- Sagging ceilings
- Structural Support
Snow comes in a wide variety of form and weight, and the more it builds up, the more at risk the building is. The building manager should take steps to mitigate this risk on a daily basis. Watch the weather forecasts and check accumulation every day with a simple yard or meter stick marked with local snow code limits. If snow runs the risk of becoming very deep, remove it from the roof.
When a ceiling sags it is not always immediately apparent to the naked eye. A good way to monitor ceilings for sagging is to simply hang a string. Measure the changes in how low the string hangs. If the string shows severe variance in depth from day to day, there may be a risk of roof collapse. Wireless roof sensors can also be applied to the same end.
Also watch for flickering lights, water leaks, sounds of creaking, bubbled or peeling paint and hardware like bolts or screws coming loose.
The shape of your roof can also contribute to risk factors. Flat roofs accumulate more snow than sloped roofs. If your roof is a shape that will be at threat for heavy snow accumulation, make sure it is reinforced to mitigate this risk.
Besides flat-roof structures, temporary structures which have lingered for a long time and warehouse or factory facilities with few support columns are at increased risk of collapse. In such structures, it is important to reinforce the roof to compensate for this lack of support.
Some other general tips for maintaining low collapse risk include:
- Monitor your building temperature
- Keep snow removal equipment, heaters and generators ready to go
- Let faucets drip to keep pipes from freezing
- Keep your emergency contact information, including contractor handy
- Assess conditions after every storm
- Maintain detailed safety standards to prevent injury to snow removal staff
Paying careful attention to your roof during and after heavy winter storms can prevent millions of dollars in cost loss, liability claims, injury and even death. If you have any tips or trips for assessing or evaluating the risk of roof collapse, we would love to hear them. Leave a note in the comments below.