Career Advice - A Community Blog

Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice

Loss Control Tips for Buildings

Written by Erik Larson, Community Blogger | Feb 12, 2018 12:21 AM

In 2016, the loss caused by structure fires in the United States was estimated at almost $7.9 billion. The damage to stores and offices was $436 million, while the damage to apartments was $711 million. These numbers, worrying as they are, only represent one part of the total property loss in the United States in 2016. Among small businesses, for example, fire damage accounts for only 10% of all insurance claims, and it's preceded by burglary and theft, water and freezing damage, and wind and hail damage.

It is always better to prevent damage to property than repair it after it happens. For buildings, this makes even more sense -- the effects of hazards can spread, and in buildings, there is more property to damage. Not to mention that buildings tend to be frequented by more people than single-family homes, for example, so any cause of property loss can affect more lives. For those reasons, buildings should employ several loss control measures.

Understanding the Risks

Not every building will face the same risks of loss. For example, the leading cause of loss due to plumbing supply is a material failure, not frozen pipes. In some regions, frozen pipes are not even a problem. In others, however, where the temperatures are more likely to dip below freezing, frozen pipes are a more common problem. The same goes for roof damage -- it is a big risk in areas where there are strong winds and heavy rain. Understanding the business- or activity-related hazards is usually a part of health and safety compliance.

Regular Housekeeping

Regular housekeeping helps remove unnecessary clutter, as well as ensure that all of the things are in their proper place. Some of the activities that are vital to loss prevention include expedient garbage removal, proper storage of flammables, and removal of debris and dust from surfaces. Keeping the outside of the building free of leaves and debris is also important because they enable water pooling which can cause damage.

Regular Maintenance and Replacement

One of the most effective ways to control loss in a building is to ensure the regular maintenance of all the utilities and services in the building. Regular inspections of plumbing, electrical wiring, and the roof, are necessary to gain an insight into their state. Any problem with the utilities and services should be fixed promptly, and it would also be a good idea to regularly replace some of them. Wiring, plumbing, fixtures, and roof tiles have a limited lifespan, and it is best to replace them every 20 or 25 years.

Safety and Security System

Safety and security systems can prevent, or at least minimize loss. The most common safety systems in buildings are fire sprinkler systems. Because they require heat for activation, they will react in case of a fire only in the parts where the fire is present, and not throughout the whole building. Sprinkling systems that cause water damage to a whole building because of a small, localized fire are a common myth. Additional safety and security features can include carbon-monoxide detectors, smoke alarms, as well as security systems. First aid kits and fire extinguishers should also be a common sight in a building. Ideally, at least some of the people that work or live in the building should have some first aid or emergency training. At the very least, they should know how to operate a fire extinguisher.

Even though prevention is always the best cure for loss, reacting quickly when something bad happens can greatly reduce the damage to a building. In some cases, people who are inside the building might be able to react. However, it is always best to have a professional to call for potentially dangerous situations. Having a regular relationship with a plumbing and sewage company, as well as a security company and electricians would be very beneficial.

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