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Pipe Break.jpgToday is set to be the coldest day for New York in six years, with high temperatures expected to be only in the low teens.  While we know to bundle ourselves up to keep warm many people forget to check to make sure their pipes stay warm as well.

 

Ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs.  Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream -- between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end.  Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. 


Here are some tips to help avoid this common cause of winter property damage:

 

How to prevent frozen pipes


  • Pipes that have frozen in the past or near exterior walls are obvious candidates for special attention.
  • Insulate areas where vulnerable pipes are located.
  • When insulation isn't enough, consider pipe wrappings embedded with electrical coils (heat tape) that provide an outside source of heat.
  • Remove hoses from outside yard faucets. The faucets can't drain properly with a hose attached and will freeze and break if the hose is left attached.
  • During severe cold weather, resist the urge to lower your thermostat to save money while you are gone for the day.
  • Open the doors to kitchen and bathroom cabinets under your sinks so heat from the room will help warm the pipes.
  • Running water doesn't freeze very readily. During severe cold weather, keep a stream of water trickling out of faucets or spouts attached to vulnerable pipes.
  • If you have a sprinkler system, drain all outdoor pipes and turn off the water supply to the system.
  • Know where your main water emergency shut-off valve is located.
 


Winterizing your home if you'll be away for an extended time


  • Turn off the water supply at the main shutoff valve by the street.
  • Remove garden hoses from outside faucets and open these faucets to drain them.
  • Drain the water heater. Turn off the pilot light on gas water heaters and be sure to turn off the electricity to electric water heaters before you drain them.
  • Use an air compressor to blow any trapped water from the water pipes. Open all faucets and leave them open. This will help keep condensation from freezing and bursting the water lines.
  • Flush all toilets (to empty the tank) and every faucet (to drain water from pipes) in the home, including outdoor faucets.
  • Empty all toilet bowls by siphoning or bailing and sponging. Pour a mixture of food grade antifreeze and water into all toilet bowls and traps of all sinks, showers and bathtubs. Don't drain these traps. The water in them keeps sewer gases out of your house.
  • If your water supply is from a well, switch off the pump and drain it along with the above-ground pump lines and the tank.

 

What to do if a pipe freezes

 

  • To prevent a frozen pipe from bursting, open the faucet it supplies with water. Then add heat to the area where the pipe is located.
  • Turn off the water supply to that line.
  • If a pipe does burst, immediately turn off the water to your home.
  • Know where your main water emergency shut-off valve is located.

 

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firex.jpgIt's finally starting to heat up and summer is right around the corner. USA Today reports that wildfires are a clear and present danger in hot spots around the US. Although we may not be able to escape all of them, we can do everything we can to protect our property and do our best to safeguard against hot areas, and make sure we have a plan to prepare for the worst.


FEMA provides some good pointers.


Practice Wildfire Safety

  • Contact your local fire department, health department, or forestry office for information on fire laws.
  • Make sure that fire vehicles can get to your home. Clearly mark all driveway entrances and display your name and address.
  • Report hazardous conditions that could cause a wildfire.
  • Teach children about fire safety. Keep matches out of their reach.
  • Post fire emergency telephone numbers.
  • Ensure adequate accessibility by large fire vehicles to your property.
  • Plan several escape routes away from your home - by car and by foot.
  • Talk to your neighbors about wildfire safety. Plan how the neighborhood could work together after a wildfire. Make a list of your neighbors' skills such as medical or technical. Consider how you could help neighbors who have special needs such as elderly or disabled persons. Make plans to take care of children who may be on their own if parents can't get home.

Create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home

Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not suffice. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation.
  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from powerlines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill - use nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than one-quarter inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket, soak in water for 2 days; then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

Protect your home

  • Regularly clean roof and gutters.
  • Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.)
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the home itself. Also, screen openings to floors, roof and attic.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test monthly and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type) and show them where it's kept.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.


Plan your water needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool, or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

For more information, download their Wildfire Preparedness PDF here.

Over a holiday weekend recently our file server decided it was giving up and died on us.  After several attempts to revive it on the weekend, our IT firm diagnosed the crash was not fixable and we had to enact our server crash contingency plan! We had prepared a protocol for just such a situation, and our IT firm jumped into action with setting up the replacement server so we could still operate normally while we then figured out what we wanted to do about a permanent solution to the problem.
 
Within 4 hours we had access to our email and database again!
 
If we had not prepared an Emergency Contingency Plan before this occurred I am not sure we would have weathered the crisis as calmly and professionally as we did.  No one outside the company had any idea we were operating with a crippled system for several hours because we were able to continue to provide excellent service as we were confident in our planned response for just such a situation.  
 
We handle other peoples' emergencies and disasters on a daily basis, and it is a relief to know we can handle our own with patience, professionalism and a dedication to maintaining top performance during a challenging experience. 

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