How to Protect Your Home’s Plumbing and Gas Appliances During a Hurricane

Most people worry about their roofs, windows and trees during a hurricane.  High winds and heavy storms can wreak havoc on these which can lead to structural damage including your plumbing.  Gas lines can rupture and water pipes can break.  Excess water can overflow your drainage systems and sewer systems may flood.  Flooding can also contaminate the water supply.

We’ve listed a few things you should do before a hurricane to minimize or prevent damages to your plumbing.

  1. Shut off the main water valve – Just before the storm hits, shut the valve off, even if you are evacuating.  This will prevent contaminated water getting into your plumbing system.  If you live in a mobile home: Evacuate.  Turn off the water where it enters the home.  If you have gas, turn off the gas but do not disconnect.
  2. Check the storm drains – Remove any obstructions so the drains can handle excess water runoff.  This can also relieve underground pipes of stress from water logged soil.
  3. Secure the Water Heater – Your plumbing system does not need the added stress of heating water.  Turn off the gas or electricity to the water heater.  If you happen to run out of water, the water in the heater is a good source for potable water.
  4. Check your Sump Pump – Check the pipe for clogs and fill the reservoir with a couple of gallons of water.  It should turn on and start pumping.
  5. Secure your pool pump – Turn the pump off, remove the hoses and protect them.  Do not drain your pool.  The increased groundwater could cause the pool to float and lift out of the ground.  Super -chlorinate the water to avoid contamination.
  6. Disconnect propane gas tanks – From your water heater, grills and other appliances.  You can reconnect your grill after the storm passes as this may be the only means of cooking. Never use a gas grill inside the house.  If you smell anything unusual it could be a sign of a gas leak.  Turn your gas off and call the gas company.  Do not try to remedy a gas leak by yourself.
  7. Fill your bath tub with water – This water should only be used for bathing and not for drinking.
  8. Fill your refrigerator – In all the free spaces with frozen jugs of water and turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings.  This will help keep the inside of your refrigerator cold longer. And if you have not seen the latest trick on face book, put a coin on top of a cup of frozen water in your freezer.  If you come home and it has thawed, decide whether to throw out the contents.  If it is just a bit thawed you can assume you didn’t lose power for very long and if it is frozen, you didn’t lose any power.
  9. After the storm – After you have confirmation from your utilities department, turn your water back on at the main.  Run your faucets and showers to make sure the water runs okay. You can expect some air to escape by sputtering, but that will stop shortly.
  10. Check your property – For uprooted trees which could have damaged plumbing pipes.  If you do have damage or your pipes have moved, call your plumber.

 

Treating Contaminated Water.  Check the appearance of the water from your faucet before drinking or using it in cooking.  Contaminated water could look cloudy, discolored and smell or taste bad. If you have no other clean source of water you can treat the water by:

  1. Boiling for at least one minute. This will eliminate many impurities.
  2. Use 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water to kill many microorganisms.  Add the bleach and let stand for a ½ hour before use.
  3. Distill the water, which is basically using the evaporated water which you collect while the water is boiling.  This is the most reliable method for decontaminating water at home.
  4. Halazone Water purification tablets. Just add 2 tablets to 1 quart of water to make questionable water bacteriologically safe to drink. Easy-to-use, safe, and fast-acting formula EPA registered to exceed criteria for disinfection of drinking water.

 

Flooding

Before flooding conditions exist

  1. Make sure the electrical circuit breakers or fuses are clearly marked for each area of your home or business.
  2. If high water is approaching and the floor is dry, turn off the electricity at the main circuit breaker or fuse box.
  3. Unplug appliances—but again, only if you don’t have to stand in water. If possible you should move larger appliances such as washing machines to a higher floor, or place them on concrete blocks.
  4. If you use a generator, only connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical system. Consult a licensed electrician.

During flood conditions

  1. Don’t go into any room or basement if water is covering appliance cords that are plugged in or if water has reached the wall outlets.
  2. Don’t enter a room if you hear popping or buzzing, or if you see sparks.
  3. If you see downed power lines, call your power provider. Be careful around downed tree limbs. They can conduct electricity from wet or broken power lines.
  4. Individuals should remain a safe distance from all ground level electrical boxes, to avoid an electrical hazard.
  5. Before entering a flooded building make certain the electricity is off. If it hasn’t been turned off, or if you’re not sure, call your power provider. Don’t go in!

 

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