Another barn collapse prompts more warnings from the state of Vermont

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Another barn collapse prompts more warnings from the state of Vermont

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:33am -- tim

A barn collapse in Chester on Monday night is the latest in a string of such structure failures that have occurred around Vermont over the past few days. Today’s extra snowpack is adding to the concern over snow loads on roofs around Vermont.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Department of Public Safety divisions of Emergency Management and Fire Safety, and Vermont Health Department are once again urging homeowners to diligently monitor their roofs and clear off snow if it can be done so safely. If there is a concern for personal safety while clearing a roof, a professional contractor should be called in to inspect the roof, or to clear the roof of snow.
‘Farms have lost livestock to the barn collapses,’ Deputy Agriculture Secretary Diane Bothfeld said. ‘There has been no loss of human life, but there are often farm workers in the barn throughout the day and there is a real safety concern for them if a roof collapses while they are working.’
Guidance for what constitutes a safe load of snow on your roof is based on a number of factors so is not the same for every dwelling. It depends on the age of the roof, the amount of snow on the roof, and the weight of that snow. Warm temperatures on Sunday and Monday have added to the weight of the snow.
John Wood, Director of the Vermont Division of Fire Safety says strange noises, cracking, or visible movement of rafters should be signs that your roof is headed for a collapse. However, he does caution that those signs won’t necessarily be there before a collapse.
There have been no roof collapses on homes reported to any state agency thus far, but state officials are still urging diligence to avoid a failure.
Steps provided by Vermont Fire Safety and the Agency of Agriculture when dealing with roofs.
· All of the mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults, as the snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.
· Try to plan an escape route before you begin and keep safety the first priority.
· If roof snow can be removed with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so. Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line. Also be careful not to let large amounts of snow fall on you.
· Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up. Snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.
On Barns:
· When clearing snow from a roof, work to ensure an even unloading from both sides at a time. Always work in pairs and use a safety line when clearing steep pitched roofs.
· The center of the rafters and the center of the building are the weak points. It is advised to keep some 4x4 or 6x6 poles on hand to place under every fourth rafter, or along the center of the roof line. This will provide additional strength to the roof.
It is also of utmost importance that all heating vents are checked and cleared of snow. A blocked heating vent can lead to carbon monoxide buildup in the home. All homes should be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
For more information about the current snow pack: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/btv/html/snow.shtml
For more information about safely clearing your roof visit: www.vermontagriculture.com
Vermont Fire Safety: www.vtfiresafety.org
Vermont Department of Health: http://healthvermont.gov/
Vermont Emergency Management: www.vemvt.com