Business, apartment building, and home owners should make certain to check essential building items, in addition to sidewalks, have properly cleared of snow and ice. The following items are essential to the overall safety of buildings and their occupants and should be cleared as soon as possible:
- pedestrian accesses
- emergency exits
- fire department sprinkler connections
- Master Boxes
- gas and electric meters
- heating ventilation systems
- overburdened roofs.
Homeowners, tenants, and businesses should be cognizant of the danger posed by heavy snow loads on roofs, and the importance of recognizing the warning signs of potential structural weaknesses. In many instances, the risks posed by accumulated snow can be mitigated by safely removing snow from roofs. Flat and low pitched roofs, most often found on industrial buildings, but also used in certain home designs, are at the greatest risk of buckling under heavy snow and ice accumulations.
To safely remove snow from roofs, the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety (DPS), DFS and MEMA recommend the following tips:
- Use a snow rake for pitched roofs (available at most hardware stores) to remove snow from your roof.
- Start from the edge and work your way into the roof.
- Try to shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to your shingles or other roof covering.
- Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires
- Plastic shovels are usually best. Metal tools may cause damage to your roof.
- Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing the snow over the side, away from the building.
- Remove large icicles carefully if they're hanging over doorways and walkways. Consider knocking down icicles through windows using a broom stick.
- Protect utilities meters and piping from falling snow, icicles, and melting water.
- Wear protective headgear and goggles when performing any of these tasks.
- Consider hiring professionals to do the job. The combination of heights plus ice makes this one of the more dangerous house chores. If you choose to do the task yourself, have someone outside with you to assist.
- Keep gutters and drains clean, free of ice and snow and keep downspouts clean at ground level.
- Unless approved by a registered professional engineer, don’t add your weight or the weight of equipment to the roof.
- Don’t use a ladder since ice tends to build up on both the rungs of the ladder and the soles of your boots.
- Don’t use blow torches, open-flame, or electric heating devices like hair dryers or heat guns to remove snow and ice.
- Don’t try to remove ice or icicles from utility wires or meters. Call your utility company for assistance.
Common signs of roofs experiencing problems:
- Sagging roofs
- Severe roof leaks
- Cracked or split wood members
- Bends or ripples in supports
- Cracks in walls or masonry
- Sheared off screws from steel frames
- Sprinkler heads that have dropped down below ceiling tiles
- Doors that pop open
- Doors or windows that are difficult to open
- Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
- Creaking, cracking or popping sounds
What to Do if You Have Problems:
- If you notice any signs that you have a problem with your roof, or suspect a gas leak, leave the building immediately without touching light switches and call 9-1-1 from safely outside the building.
- For general questions, call the Inspectional Services Department or the Cambridge Fire Department business line. It is recommended that you hire a licensed contractor to remove snow from your roof.