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Heavy snowfall increases danger of roof collapses

By Scott Newbury

Some regions of the Midwest and the High Plains have experienced record-breaking snow falls in recent years, not to mention the more than 20 inches that fell in early December, increasing the possibility of roof collapse.

In fact, roof collapses as a result of snow and ice are one of the largest weather-related claims seen in the agribusiness division of Travelers, the second-largest writer of commercial U.S. property casualty insurance . For farmers and ranchers, these incidents can be both dangerous and costly.

With winter just beginning, it's a good idea to take proactive steps now to ensure that animals, buildings, contents and operations are protected from a potentially devastating event. Taking these precautions could mean the difference between "business as usual" and shutting down operations for a significant period of time.

Know your roof

­--You should know how much snow your buildings can safely handle. Building codes vary across the U.S. and between building types.

­--Regularly inspect the roof and structure and make necessary repairs. Clear debris from roof drains and gutters to prevent ice build up. Check doors and windows to make sure they're operating properly and aren't signaling a structural or foundation problem.

­--Inspect the location of tree belts (windbreaks) to ensure they're not too close to buildings, causing snow to drift and accumulate on roofs.

Plan now how to safely remove snow

­--Set up a monitoring system that takes into account how much snow the roofs of your buildings can hold and stipulate when it's no longer safe to be on the roof clearing.

­--Determine whether you'll clear the roofs yourself or hire a contractor. If using a contractor, make sure they have proper insurance. If you're clearing the snow, use the appropriate equipment designed to remove snow.

Develop a contingency plan

Prepare for a worst-case scenario. Develop plans to protect your animals and equipment, identifying other structures or farms that could house your animals before or after a collapse. Also consider how you'll protect equipment if it must be moved outside and how you'll ensure utilities--gas, water, electricity­--will be shut off.

Monitoring is key. Monitor the weather conditions, roof conditions and snow depth levels. If collapse is imminent or has occurred, implement any snow removal or contingency plans. After a storm, inspect your property for damage and initiate any contingency plans to keep operations running. At a minimum, protect your property and animals from any further harm while making repairs.

For more information about loss prevention tools and guidance, visit www.travelersagribusiness.com or contact an independent insurance agent in your area.

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