January 23, 2013 - Risk Alert Regarding Cold Weather Alert – Freezing Pipes*

Office of Risk Management and Parish Services

Risk Alert
No. 2013-02
RE:   Cold Weather Alert – Freezing Pipes                
January 23, 2013

The National Weather Service reports that temperatures in Massachusetts are dropping into the single digits and teens from today through the weekend. Although snow is not expected, single digit temperatures increase the risks of structural property damage, such as frozen and bursting water pipes and subsequent flooding. Of particular concern are buildings that will be unoccupied over the weekend; please be sure to keep the thermostat set to 64° F to prevent pipes from freezing, and consider leaving a faucet on at a slow and steady drip.

Preventing Frozen and Bursting Water Pipes
(adapted from Willis Technical Advisory Bulletin)

Indoor pipes can freeze, depending on such variables as outside temperature, inside temperature, insulation and placement in the building. Pipes in the attic, above ceilings, in crawl spaces and basements, and near exterior walls are highly vulnerable to freezing, especially where there is poor insulation, wall cracks or other openings that allow entry of cold outside air.

Monitor equipment such as water-based fire protection systems (automatic sprinkler systems, fire pumps, hoses and hydrants). Whether or not piping in these systems actually bursts, any freezing of water can block water flow, preventing proper operation in case of fire. These systems must remain heated and ice-free to minimize losses from fire and water damage.

To prevent formation of ice in pipes due to freezing temperature and to prevent pipes from bursting, please consider the following:

  • Repair broken windows, ill-fitting doors and other conditions that allow heat loss.
  • Keep exterior doors closed, even if not in the immediate vicinity of piping.
  • Maintain heat in buildings at all times, even in unoccupied buildings. Set thermostat to at least 64° F.
  • If the building is to be left unattended for an extended period, shut off the water lines and drain all pipes. (The exceptions are sprinkler systems unless all combustible materials are removed and the building is noncombustible or fire-resistive).
  • Provide insulation around a pipe sufficient to reduce heat loss, or provide heat tracing, if the pipe might be exposed to freezing temperatures.
  • Open cabinet doors and keep them open to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
  • Maintenance personnel should periodically run faucets throughout the day and evening to ensure pipes are not frozen.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and water does not come out, leave the faucet open, turn off the water at the main shut off valve and call a plumber. Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame. You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe with the warm air from a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

If a water pipe bursts, completely open all faucets and turn off the water at the main shut-off valve. Call a plumber to repair right away.

Please contact our Claims Manager at [email protected] if you have any questions or suspect damage related to the cold weather. For a list of disaster restoration specialists, please see our website:

For additional information on cold weather risks and recommendations, please visit our website (www.rcabrisk.org) and enter “cold weather” in the search field for a list of articles, tips and guidelines.