Winter Storm Preparedness Guide

Winter snow accumulation in excess of building design conditions can be vulnerable to structural failure and possible collapse if basic preventative steps are not taken in advance of a snow event. Are you prepared?

Use this guide to help you understand your roof collapse risks from snow and to develop plans for mitigating the damage.

Understand Winter Storm Exposure

  • Understand the winter storm and ground snow loading exposures around your property. This information can be obtained from local authority.
  • Understand your structural vulnerabilities and collect baseline information: applicable building codes, design snow load, structural framing system, thermal properties and renovation history.
  • Consult with a license structural engineer if roof retrofit is needed for the existing building to support additional snow load.
  • Understand how winter storm and roof collapse by snow will impact your operation (people, structural, equipment, stock, egress, ingress, etc.)

Implement Pre-Winter Mitigation

  • Develop Emergency Response Program covers winter emergencies, including appropriate response procedures for excessive snow loads, operation shut down and evacuation.
  • Develop and train a Winter Storm Response Team to initiate pre-winter storm and post-winter storm recovery actions.
  • Establish a list of contractors to aid in Winter storm preparedness and recovery. Place contractors on alert.
  • Prior to winter, inspect the roof structure for damage or deterioration, and repair or reinforce it as needed.
  • Develop a snow removal plan and ensure not overloading the existing roofing. Locating areas where snow removed from a roof can be stored on the ground away from entrances, exits, canopies, and building equipment. Accessibility for snow removal vehicles should be checked.
  • Maintain an adequate inventory of materials such as snow removal equipment (shovels, ice spades, snow blowers, etc.)

Determine What to Do During Winter Season

  • Define a methodology to determine an approximate snow load and at what point snow removal should be initiated.
  • Elevate if any signs of overstress conditions occur on structural components. (Crack of walls, Sagging roof members, and creaking noises)

Create a Winter Storm Emergency Response Plan (WSERP)

  • Formalize the pre- and post-earthquake procedures and precautions into a written WSERP.
  • Form a Winter Storm response team, assign a leader, and assign specific tasks to members of the team.
  • Document all hazardous operation shut down procedures in the WSERP.
  • Give authorization for the winter storm response team to initiate equipment or process shutdowns.
  • Provide external/internal winter storm related training as required.
  • Conduct drills of the WSERP utilizing real-life simulation or computer simulation.
  • Validate the WSERP annually. Adjust/update as needed.

Swiss Re CatNet® Natural Hazard Modelling Online

Winter storm and other natural hazards exposure profiles for any location worldwide are available through Swiss Re's CatNet® online tool.