Over the past several months, there have been several incidents of roof collapse of various types of agricultural buildings across the upper Midwest and Northeastern states. These have caused not only property damage but death of livestock and potential harm to any people inside these buildings. Some media outlets have reported that collapse is excluded from some insurance policies. Collapse is normally an available peril. If you do not know if you are covered, check with your agent or insurance carrier.
More importantly, take action now to watch your farm buildings for excessive snow loads. A recent article on the University of Minnesota Extension web page, highlighted some considerations to protect your farm buildings from the potential of roof collapse.
University of Minnesota Extension News
Snow loads for agricultural buildings in parts of the Midwest are around 20 pounds per square foot. However, roofs are designed to support this snow load for several days to a few weeks. Generally, the roof will not be designed to support the snow load for more than 30 days. With weather like we have experienced in 2010, you should be concerned with potential fatigue that can lead to the collapse. If you have too much snow on your roof the easy solution is to get it off. Obviously this can be easier said than done given the weather conditions and danger associated with this process.
Another concern is excessive snow drifts. Snow drifts around a building can put pressure on the side walls that can also lead to collapse. Be cautious to remove any snow around your building to prevent drifting against your building. In some cases, we have heard where insured customers have hired a contractor to remove snow from their barns. This is not only the best approach to keep the insured or their employees safe, but the amount spent to hire the contractor may be less than the amount of the deductible if a collapse loss were to occur.
The website for the Cooperative Extension at Cornell University also has some great resources around snow loads, roof collapse and preparing for winter weather. You can access the Winter Safety guide under the Preparedness Resources section of the website.
This has been a winter to remember and it does not show any signs of letting up soon. The collapse exposure will continue to be a concern. As we long for warmer days, we may see more stress on roofs as snow melts in warmer weather and as snow, rain and ice combine. Stay safe this winter and hope that warmer weather is just around the corner.