By definition, emergencies are unexpected. They usually come out of nowhere and leave their victims scrambling to cope.
Plumbing emergencies are no different. If raw sewage starts backing up into your home, a pipe cracks and floods your kitchen, or a hurricane destroys your plumbing and floods your lawn, it’s hard to know exactly what to do in the moment.
Fortunately, even though you don’t know when an emergency can strike, it’s possible to prepare for one. Below, we’ll give you a few tips that can keep you safe and calm and minimize property damage if a plumbing emergency does occur.
1. Know How to Find and Turn Off Your Main Water Shutoff Valve
If you use your city’s water, the water flows to your home through a main water shutoff valve. In an emergency situation-for instance, a bathroom flood or a hurricane-you should shut off the water flow to your house to reduce damage and danger to your family.
If you’ve never had to shut off your home’s water before, you might not know where your main water shutoff valve is. Usually, you can find it in your on the first floor or next to your home’s other utility boxes.
You can cut off the water supply by turning the valve counterclockwise. Most homes have one of two types of valves: gate valves, which are slightly harder to turn, and ball valves, which only need a quarter turn to shut off.
You might want to check and make sure you can actually shut off the valve by giving it a practice turn, especially if you have a gate valve-the middle of a hurricane is a bad time to find out you need a lever or other tool to turn the valve.
It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone in the home knows the valve’s location. If you’re at work when a pipe starts to leak and flood the kitchen, someone else who lives with you, like a roommate or your oldest child (as long as he or she is a teenager), should know how to reach the valve.
2. Find Individual Fixtures’ Shutoff Valves
Along with locating your home’s main water shutoff valve, you should locate the shutoff valves connected to each plumbing fixture. Your toilets, sinks, washing machine, water heater, and dishwasher all have valves that shut off the water to each fixture in case one of them starts to overflow or leak.
You can turn a fixture’s shutoff valve rather than the home’s main line if you only experience a problem with one appliance. For instance, if your toilet is overflowing and you can’t get it to stop, you should shut off the fixture’s valve instead of the home’s main water line. You should also shut off the water supply to different fixtures before you perform any repairs.
Of course, you should leave dangerous or extensive repairs to professionals. But if you usually do small maintenance tasks like safely flushing your water heater, for instance, you should always shut off the fixture’s water line before you get started. Doing so prevents electrical emergencies and other disasters.
3. Store Safe Drinking Water at Home
Imagine a hurricane strikes and you do have to turn off your main water valve. If your family plans to stay at home for a few hours until the storm passes, you’ll probably still need drinking water. And, in a worst-case scenario, a storm might strand you in the house for a few days without safe water, in which case you need a larger store of clean drinking water.
Keep an emergency water supply at your home for emergency scenarios like the one described above. According to the CDC, you should try to store enough water to support each person in your home for at least three days. Store at least one gallon per person per day so that each person has three gallons of water to use in an emergency.
Keep your water in a cool, dark, dry area of your home. You can either purchase water bottles or invest in safe water-storage barrels. If you use water bottles, check their expiration dates and replace them as needed. If you use water barrels, switch out the water in these barrels every six months.
4. Keep a Plumber’s Number On Hand
In the middle of the night or the middle of a storm, you don’t want to frantically flip through the Yellow Pages or google the nearest possible plumber. In an emergency situation, you’ll probably scramble to call the first plumber you can find, but he or she might not be the right person for the job.
Instead, keep a trustworthy plumber’s number in your phone so you can get in touch with a plumber you’re already familiar with as soon as an emergency strikes.
At First Class Plumbing, we’re happy to help as soon as a disaster happens. Follow the tips listed above so you can keep a level head and protect yourself and your family during an emergency, and call one of our capable plumbers for help as soon as you can.