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Escape of water can be described as water from the mains water supply system escaping from a pipe, tank, appliance, etc into the property. 

In comparison, other forms of water damage can be caused by, for instance, river flooding, coastal flooding, surface water flooding or storm damage.

Equipment in properties which utilises water (from heating / cooling systems to general pipework or waste water systems), can suffer from escape of water and there are a number of reasons why the risk of damage has increased in recent years.

These include: 

  • The increasing number of appliances which use water in residential properties
  • Varying water pressures
  • Competence of installing contractors
  • Aging systems
  • Modern methods of construction using materials with increased vulnerability to water damage, to name but a few.

The following type of properties are considered at higher risk:

  • Multi-occupancy properties containing residential flats and apartments
  • Hotels and other accommodation
  • Student accommodation.
A resultant escape of water can cause extensive damage to both buildings and contents, leaving properties uninhabitable for extensive periods of time whilst repairs and drying out methods take place. For instance, an escape of water in an upper floor flat can affect multiple flats located below it. Such incidents can result in misery for residents and can also lead to serious business interruption.
  • Check the age, type and adequacy of plumbing together with associated insulation. If this is found to be defective, ensure suitable repairs are undertaken by a competent / skilled contractor.
  • If you have responsibility for the maintenance and repair of part or all of a property, and/or its equipment/installations, make sure there is a comprehensive, planned preventative maintenance system in place.
  • Review the vulnerability of your plumbing systems to freezing, particularly in unheated or open areas. Where appropriate, provide suitable lagging and/or trace heating. Advice is available from the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS).
  • Have water equipment drained down (except sprinkler systems for fire protection) if a property is to be left vacant for an extended period of time.
  • Check that keyholders  are familiar with the location of the incoming main stop valve or stopcock to the incoming water supply; that it’s easily accessible / labelled and the valve gets exercised regularly to ensure it can be turned off easily in the event of an emergency.
  • Consider installing leak detection devices and / or water flow management controls that also shut off the water supply and raise an alarm in the event of a leak. Intelligent and programmable equipment can also manage water availability at arranged intervals, reducing the risk of water damage if a leak occurs during unoccupancy of the property. Visit Leaksafe, our preferred supplier to learn more about their services. 
  • Review your business continuity plans to take potential water damage incidents into account and consider any necessary actions. 
  • New installations, should be suitably pressure tested in accordance with relevant regulations prior to final use.
  • Ensure underground drains and sewers are regularly inspected, cleaned and in good repair, to prevent potential backing up of water into the property.
  • The disposal of oil and fats into drains can lead to blockages, so this should be avoided.
  • Overflow pipes should discharge water safely outside the property and not into inside areas of the property.
  • If underfloor heating is installed, ensure suitable safety precautions are in place to prevent escape of water in the event of a problem, e.g.shut off valve.
  • Water tanks and other significant storage of water equipment may need bund protection in the event of an escape of water, particularly if located on upper floors or in the roof space of a property.
  • Ensure competent / skilled contractors are employed and affiliated to an industry body such as CIPHE – Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineers.
  • Boosted / pressurised water systems, generally found in notably high rise properties, can continue to pump large quantities of water at high pressure via a water leak occurring below the booster pump. For such equipment, a competent / skilled contractor would be able to assess the possibility of incorporating changes to reduce escape of water in such an incidence.
  • The following precautions are necessary for properties with sprinkler systems installed:

    - Ensure sprinkler head guards are used where they are considered vulnerable to accidental impact.
    - Use trace heating for pipework  where considered necessary.
    - Provide adequate fixed support for pipework
    - Ensure that correct sprinkler head ratings are used for the particular environment in which they are located.
    - Check that emergency response / shut off procedures are in place to ensure rapid action, should an accidental escape of water occur.
  • In areas or rooms with contents which are considered particularly susceptible to water damage (such as IT equipment), pipework containing water of any type should be diverted to avoid passing immediately over such areas . This should include air conditioning pipework.
Find information on regulations that you and your business may need to comply with.
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Identify the key functions in your business and work out the damage that interruption could do.
Frequently asked questions
Find answers to some common queries about managing risks to people, property and business continuity.