Named storms – such as ‘Storm Christoph’, ‘Storm Darcy’ and ‘Storm ‘Evert’ – pose many risks to buildings and their surroundings. Without appropriate design and risk prevention methods, such as ongoing inspections, maintenance and planned response procedures, the impact that storms, high winds, heavy rainfall, hail and increased tidal surges can have is significantly increased.
Luckily, in most cases such major weather events are predicted in advance so their impact should rarely be sudden and unforeseen – which means we can plan in advance and take steps to protect buildings against storm damage.
To help with this, we have listed some risk management tips and advice below as well as a checklist to protect buildings and structures from heavy storm damage.
Protecting against roof damage
Roofs should be designed to withstand the maximum expected winds and associated ‘uplift’ forces in a given area. However, regardless of the original design, a lack of appropriate and regular inspections, maintenance and repairs can increase the risk of a roof failing or sustaining significant damage in high winds or heavy rain.
Buildings that are situated in open spaces, such as those adjacent to fields or lakes, or on hillsides, are particularly vulnerable to high wind loads.
The majority of wind-associated roof damage starts with the failure of inappropriately designed, poorly maintained or poorly fastened flashing. If strong winds damage the perimeter flashing then additional damage can be expected to the rest of the roof.
To protect against this, consider the following:
- On an ongoing basis, but particularly before high winds are forecast, check the flashing around the edge of a building. Having some threaded nails and flat washers ready available will enable some quick and easy interim repairs.
- Replace missing, loose or damaged roof tiles.
- Check the condition roof mounted structures, such as chimneys or aerial stacks.
- For anything other than small repairs a roofing specialist should be contacted to carry out repairs ahead of a storm.
Roof and wall-mounted objects
The presence of roof or wall-mounted objects, such as air conditioners, solar panels or any fans, pumps or motors, can increase the risk of damage to the building during high winds. To prevent this, these should be secured:
- On an ongoing basis, but particularly before high winds are forecast, check the condition and fastening of any roof or wall-mounted objects.
- Make sure all roof-top access hatches or plant room doorways are properly secured.
- If there any concerns, further action to secure or protect them should be considered.
External objects such as bins, storage units, furniture items, trees/shrubs and sometimes even parked vehicles can become missiles in very high storm winds. These can cause significant damage to buildings and other external damage, which can also make the impacted building or object more susceptible to the ongoing effects of the wind and rain.
Precautions should therefore be taken to prevent dangerous flying objects during storms:
- Mobile objects should be either moved to secure areas or fixed to the ground.
- If glazed elements are not impact resistant, e.g. windows, doors, greenhouses etc. then appropriately fixed plywood can be used to protect them.
- The condition and location of trees and shrubs should be considered, with immediate issues of concern acted upon e.g. possibility of tree branches falling or tree collapse etc.
Protecting against damage caused by heavy rain
Rain, particularly heavy or wind driven rain, can cause risks such as flooding water courses, surface water flooding and driving rain through windows, doors or external apertures causing interior water damage.
- Precautions should be taken against rain being driven through air ventilation systems, louvres, under and around sliding glass doors and roof mounted exhausts, access hatches, vents etc.
- Make sure that the roof and gutters are cleared and clean.
- Make sure that drains – included public highway storm drains – are clear and manhole covers are in place and secured.
- Liaise with neighbours to make sure checks are carried out there – one blockage can cause a knock-on effect for the entire drainage network.
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