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Reducing the threat of water damage

In review of loss activity during the 2020 pandemic for Markel’s martial arts insured, the most impactful events involved water damage. Water damage to any business can have a devastating impact. A martial arts studio can suffer downtime associated with water extraction and mat or floor replacement. During mat or floor replacement, a martial arts studio may expose their students to surfaces that are inappropriate for a particular activity resulting in an increased possibility of injury. Additional damage can involve damage to business personal property, such as computers, laptops, phone systems, pictures, and other memorabilia important to your dojo.

Swift actions are often necessary to reduce the extent of damage water can cause when it becomes an intrusive assailant.

Rapid response can come in many ways. Every program’s rapid response should include knowing how to shut-off water in case of an emergency. Everyone on staff should know where the emergency water shut-off valve is, how it works, and where the tools are located to help shut the water off. Consider conducting frequent training scenarios that require staff to respond to emergency situations such as a ruptured pipe. A ruptured pipe can dump gallons of water in a matter of minutes. Keep in mind that commercial urinals and toilets may require additional steps to shut off the water at the source. It may be necessary for a licensed plumber to visit your studio to offer their expertise.

Early notification of water intrusion can reduce the surprise factor associated with finding the damage hours after it occurs, and can help reduce the severity of the damage. While this is not an endorsement of any product, there are a variety of water intrusion alert systems on the market that may work for you. Along with technology, these devices can alert you as soon as water is detected. In the case of toilet overflow, there are alarm systems that can alert you of an overflow event and also automatically shut-off the water to reduce the amount of water involved. Consider providing an adjacent business or business above you your contact information so they can quickly notify you should they have a water emergency. 

For businesses that have invested in mats and floors, such as a martial arts studio, another component of a rapid response should include a water extraction specialist on speed-dial. These practitioners are masters at helping to mitigate the impact invasive water can have on a business. It is recommended that you seek the expertise of reputable contractors who have experience in handling water extraction. You can consult your insurance agent or company for potential recommendations.

Additional steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of ruptured pipes and waterlines include:

  • Check plumbing. Look for leaking fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains, and defective water-drainage systems.
  • Protect exposed pipes with insulation.
  • Never hang anything from sprinkler heads.
  • In extremely low temperatures, open faucets so a trickle of water moves through the pipes.
  • Hire a professional plumber to inspect your pipes before winter, particularly if you are in an older structure. They can offer long-term recommendations that can help reduce the likelihood of pipes bursting.

Severe weather events can also be a major contributor of water damage to a business. To prevent water intrusion from severe weather events, you can take the following precautions:

  • Check interior walls and ceilings. Water stains on the ceiling or running down walls may be the sign of a much greater problem behind the drywall. If left untreated, the ceiling or wall may collapse. Water often travels along structural members, so a stain may appear at a distance from where the leak actually is.
  • Inspect flashing, sealants, and caulking around windows, roofs, and doors. If they are brittle or there are noticeable gaps in spaces, reseal or apply new caulk to the area.
  • Check roof drainage systems and ventilation systems. Ensure roof drains and gutters are free of debris, and that water drains away from buildings. If the roof is in poor condition, you may need to replace it.
  • Make sure ventilation systems have appropriate hoods and are in good condition. Check heating and air conditioning systems for excessive condensation or leaks in water lines. You may need to contact a professional contractor to inspect these areas properly.
  • Inspect foundations and exterior walls. Look for cracks in walls and gaps in expansion joints (material between bricks, pipes, and other building materials that absorb movement). Have a professional building contractor inspect significant gaps or cracks.

As important as having a water extraction specialist on speed-dial, know that prompt reporting of a water damage event to your insurance carrier may help reduce the overall impact of a water intrusion loss.