Winter Ready business logo

Home / Guidance / Business Disaster Guides / Winter Ready Business

Prepare your Business Ahead of the Winter Season

Winter weather can cause business disruption, structural damage to buildings from excessive snow loads, water damage from burst frozen pipes, and dangerous ice dams on the roof. Regional differences exist between businesses located in the Northern portions of the United States and those in the Southern regions.

Prepare Now!

These steps can help you to prepare your business before the winter season, no matter where you’re located

Winter Ready Business Preparedness Guide 

These steps can help you to prepare your business before the winter season. 


1. Assess your exposure & create a business continuity plan

Severe winter weather is a significant cause of insured catastrophic losses and is a risk for many businesses across the country. You will want to ensure your team stays safe, and the business can stay open and thrive, no matter what the season brings.

  • Assess your exposure
    • Consider where you’re located. Buildings located in Northern regions of the United States can expect to see more snow and will have different preparedness actions versus buildings in the South, which may be more susceptible to below-freezing temperatures.
  • Create a business continuity winter plan
    • Create a communication plan for employees and customers across multiple channels for before and during a winter event.
    • Develop an emergency recovery plan for after a winter event to be communicated to employees, customers, clients, delivery services, etc.
    • Create a snow and ice removal plan for all roofs and grounds.
    • Identify emergency snow removal services in advance to utilize in the event of heavy accumulation, tree removal services, generator rental supplier, etc.
    • Develop a back-up plan for nearby off-street parking if the municipality imposes a parking ban on streets to allow access for plows. This occurs more frequently in the North, even hours before snow is expected, so roads can be pre-treated.
    • Test/practice the plan.
  • Purchase supplies
    • Purchase non-slip water absorption mats for all entrances.
    • Purchase snow removal equipment such as shovels, deicer, and snow blowers.
    • Supply blankets to staff in case they get stranded at work.
  • Stay informed
    • Find a reliable source for severe weather information. Follow the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center (WPC) on Facebook or X, and your local NWS office. Tune in to local news often when winter weather is forecast.
    • Enable wireless emergency alerts on your cell phone.
  • Check your insurance coverage and inventory valuable equipment
    • Know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t.
    • Keep your insurance agent’s contact information in your phone and accessible offsite.
    • Take a complete inventory of your commercial property and valuable equipment and store it somewhere safely offsite and in the cloud. If you have a loss due to a winter-related event, you’ll have to quantify losses to your insurance company.
Energy engineers working together


NOTE: All do-it-yourself guidance outlined is to be completed under safe operating conditions. If fall protection is not available, it is best to hire a licensed and insured contractor.

2) Inspect and repair the roof cover, flashing and gutter

Water that does not properly drain off a roof has the potential to freeze, creating dangerous ice dams and adding to snow load. Icicles are an indication of ice dams and if left unattended, they can cause roof and interior water damage. Improper drainage can also cause excessive snow loads leading to partial or full roof collapse.

  • Know your roof’s maximum snow load
    • The snow load capacity can typically be identified in the “notes” of the building’s most recent structural drawings. Existing roof load capacities on drawing sets can be a good indicator as long as:
      • No building modifications have been made,
      • The roof is not excessively aged, and
      • The roof has been properly maintained.
    • If drawings are not available and the snow load threshold is unknown, then hire a structural engineer to verify it. This information will be important after an event when determining whether there is too much snow on the roof.
Flat roof with skylight and hydro insulation membranes

3) Seal the building envelope & protect the pipes

Plumbing and a wet-type fire protection sprinkler system may freeze in extreme cold due to power outages, inadequately sealed building envelopes, or vacant buildings without proper heating. Older buildings, especially in Southern states, may be more susceptible to below freezing temperatures and are more likely to not have adequate pipe or building insulation. Wind, wind-driven rain, and snow can enter through worn or missing window glazing (the mechanism that seals the glass to its frame).

  • Exterior
    • Inspect and add weather stripping to doors.
    • Inspect windows for brittle or missing glazing and have a contractor make repairs if necessary.
    • Inspect and seal exterior wall cladding. Repair all cracks, holes, and leaks with caulk.
    • Insulate pipes in crawl spaces and attic.
  • Interior
    • Insulate and seal around attic penetrations such as partition walls, vents, plumbing stacks, and electrical and mechanical chases.
    • Make sure pipes along exterior walls and in hard-to-reach places like attics are insulated. Wrap pipes and faucets in unheated or minimally heated areas of the building.
    • Make sure existing freeze-protection devices and alarms are in good working order. Test freeze stats (low temperature sensing devices) and valves before the weather gets cold.
    • Hire a licensed fire protection specialist to conduct routine maintenance on fire protection sprinkler systems. Discuss the systems’ exposure to winter weather and potential mitigation options.
Engineer inspecting heating system in boiler room.

4) Winterize your landscaping.

Trees near or overhanging a building can damage the roof cover, siding, and windows under the weight of snow and ice. Trees overhanging power lines can snap under the weight of ice or snow, damaging power lines and causing outages. Lack of power can lead to frozen pipes that burst resulting in significant damage and business interruption.

  • Keep all trees trimmed and away from the building. Pay particular attention to trees within falling distance of overhead power lines.
  • Exterior faucets should be shut off, hoses drained and stored at the start of winter. If exterior faucets do not have a shut-off valve inside the building, have one installed by a plumber.
  • Shut off and drain irrigation systems.
4- Trim Tree from building

5) Maintain your HVAC system.

Loss of heat for even a few hours could significantly disrupt your business during a cold snap, causing dangerously cold temperatures inside the building and resulting in frozen pipes.

  • Schedule preventative maintenance annually and make sure the HVAC system is operating properly and efficiently.
  • Be sure to change air filters and check that exhaust gases are ventilated properly.
  • Select a heating system repair service before an unexpected outage or maintenance issue arises mid-season. Have someone ready to come quickly – including after hours – and negotiate an emergency rate in advance.
Technician is checking air conditioner ,measuring equipment for filling air conditioners.

6) Service your generator.

The time to maintain a generator is well before a major storm or disaster strikes when professional assistance may be unavailable, power lines are down, and access roads are blocked. Backup power can help maintain a consistent building temperature and reduce the risk of freezing pipes leading to business disruption and damage.

  • Permanent:
    • Permanent generators should have a proper maintenance plan that includes weekly, monthly, and annual checks. See the manufacturer’s specifications for more information.
    • Run the unit weekly on its maintenance plan to ensure it is properly functioning in case of an emergency. Individual units may have a timer that allows a programmed test to be scheduled. Qualified personnel should oversee these scheduled weekly tests.
    • Check the generator enclosure for loose debris or other conditions that could cause the unit to not function properly.
  • Portable:
    • Store in a dry location.
    • Set up a maintenance schedule to include periodic test runs for the unit.
    • When renting a portable unit, make sure you have a contract in place ahead of winter weather. Also consider where the unit will be housed, how it will be delivered, and who will be responsible for receiving it. Note that delivery of the unit can be delayed due to the severe winter weather, which may cause some business downtime.
Diesel Generator for Office Building connected to the Control Panel with Cable Wire. Backup Generator Power.

APARTMENT/CONDOMINIUM OWNERS: Check in with residents regarding any maintenance requests or building concerns they may have. Living or working in your commercial property means they are on constant alert to their surroundings. If they see, hear, or smell something, ask that they say something.

Seasonal Business Prep

These steps can help you to prepare your business before the winter season, no matter where you’re located.

Building Upgrades

We can’t stop the harsh winter weather, but we can prepare and strengthen our structures to defend against it.  

Before Winter Event

When defensible space is thoughtfully created and well-maintained, it will increase the likelihood your building will survive a wildfire.

After Winter Event

Follow these steps to recover quickly and reopen your business.