Is Your Roof Ready for Storms?

As this column was prepared, the Weather Channel was tracking a major snowstorm moving up the East Coast. Weather predictions like these are far more accurate today than they were just a few years ago, but our preparations for dealing with major weather events often aren’t taking advantage of those extra few hours or days.

If a major storm is headed your way, use the extra time to make a contingency plan for your roof delineating necessary responsibilities before, during, and after the storm. When bad weather hits, you’ll be glad you did.


Set up a meeting with your chief of maintenance or general contractor and other trades to address several issues. Identify the critical parts of the building, such as boiler rooms, computer rooms, and electrical installations. Assign a priority to get to those areas and, when needed, restore or protect them first. Be sure to account for these areas as well so you’re not scrambling during the storm:

  • Ensure access to snow blowers, fuel for power tools and shovel storage.
  • Confirm that roof drains and scuppers have been tested and properly hooked up to the storm sewers. Roof drains should be set into a sump (depressed area with thinner insulation) so that heat from the building will melt ice and snow at the drain first. Install tell-tails to help locate rooftop drains, vents and HVAC units so that snow blowers do not cause damage during the snow removal process.
  • Discuss how to access snow blowers, shovels, sandbags and other safety equipment where needed. Safety considerations like gloves, boots, helmets, and eye protection should be stored in an easily accessible area where they can be quickly employed as needed. Frostbite is no laughing matter.
  • Pails of asphalt mastic should be available, along with work gloves and trowels. These are generally available at big box centers but may be sold out during major events, especially those that can cause wind damage. (Pruning large tree branches will help avoid the associated window breakage.)
  • Protect emergency power. Before the storm hits, test your backup power sources and make sure key personnel are trained to operate them.
  • Don’t forget communication. Landlines and cell phones may be unreliable during a major event. Employees will be concerned with the safety of their families, so back-up phone numbers should be available as needed.