Before we are able to sing “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” autumn comes along and trees change color, the air becomes crisper and the thought of hot chocolate in front of a fire becomes even more appealing.
In the same way that trees drop their leaves to plan for the winter weather, an apartment community needs to prepare as well. Here are some suggestions to get ready:
1. Spigots – Go around to every building and turn the exterior water taps off. Consider freeze protection to prevent damage.
2. Planning – Because it may have been a while, schedule a staff meeting to discuss dealing with winter emergencies. For instance:
- When and how to notify residents of a freeze warning
- Vacant apartment preparations and standards for inclement weather
- Procedures for a major pipe break
- Updated contact list for vendors and staff
- Standards and expectations for dealing with snow/ice
3. Water heaters – As the water temperature entering water heaters drop, it places extra stress on the tank. The fall is a good time to schedule and test the temperature and pressure valve. Simply lift up the handle and let it fall back to its original position. If the valve leaks and doesn’t reseal, it’s time to replace the valve.
4. Valve hunt – Summer rain and landscaping changes may have covered the water shut-off boxes, so it’s a good idea to go around and relocate them. Consider marking them in a way that is easy to identify at night (a reflector stake) or under snow (markings on the building/sidewalk).
5. Supply stock – Before the weather turns bad, review the amount of supplies—ice melt, sand, caution tape, cones and even pipe-repair materials should all be considered—were used last winter to deal with it.
6. CO check – As the need for heating water increases when the temperature drops, check and repair--or replace as needed--the various detectors (including carbon monoxide) on the property.
7. Dark space check – In many communities, the plumbing system goes through a crawlspace or the basement. Inspect these locations and verify that any heat-strip tape or other method for maintaining temperature is operational.
Depending on your location, winter preparations may take some time. It’s a great idea to have a plan in place and to schedule the needed tasks early to avoid craziness. After all, waiting until the meteorologists are doing their “happy dance” on TV is not the time to remember that the heat is out in a vacant apartment or that the irrigation line needs to be drained.
Paul Rhodes, CAMT is the National Safety and Maintenance Instructor for the National Apartment Association Education Institute.
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